However long may be our fuse, we finally explode. The difference is only in the time it takes. Remember, on its way to the explosive crux the ignition keeps the fuse hot. That is the fretting all of us go through occasionally. The Psalmist, an old wise man (Psa 37:25) gently admonishes “do not fret!” (Psa 37:1). I am certain that he might have learned this valuable lesson from his long journey of life.
The Hebrew verb translated as “fret” has the sense of “heating up” or “being hot.” Though most translations translate it as “fret”, if given the opportunity I would translate it as “do not fume over.”
The psalmist talks about the godly people becoming envious of the godless people who are faring well in their life. Though godly seems to have all that they need, and doing well, they fret over the comparatively better benefits that the ungodly have. So, the Psalmist elaborates the idea of “fretting” as “being envious” in the next line.
The trigger that causes our fretting may not be the same as what the Psalmist describes here. Though the reasons for fretting over might be different, the cure that the psalm prescribes apply to all scenarios of fretting. It is a “one size fit all” kind of remedy.
Before we move on to talk about the cure, we need to understand that if left untreated fretting could harm us extremely badly. It causes tremendous stress that may paralyzes us. Most importantly, it blocks our mind in such a way as that we cannot focus or hear God. Fretting is a spiritual impediment. It may lead us to fight with those who cause us to worry, where victory is not always assured. What makes us fret may still hold the fort after a war of words.
Trusting in God is the remedy to get over getting over fretting: trust over fret! According to the Psalmist, trust is divided into three shades, and we need each one. Trust in God should be focused, joyful, and wise.
First, trust in should be focused. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psa 37:3). In the following lines he elaborates what trusting the Lord means.
I understand this line as saying, trust in the Lord while you keep doing good. The focus in on doing good or being fit for the purpose for which we are created by God. In the Bible “being good” is to serve the purpose for which something is made. An apple that can not be eaten is not good apple nor a rose that never blooms is not a good rose worth keeping. Trusting in the Lord is to take our eyes off from what distracts us from our God-ordained task. When we are immersed in serving God’s purpose in our lives, there is no time to fret over anything.
Focussed trust comes with its own rewards which is dwelling in the land in order to feed on God’s own faithfulness. The word translated as “befriend” in ESV can also be rendered as “feed on.” (See the ESV note.) As we focus in fulfilling the God-ordained purposes in our lives, God responds by constantly supplying us by his faithfulness. He makes us satisfied.
A second shade of trust in God is joy, it is joyful trust. “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psa 37:4). The word “delight” evokes the experience of eating. We don’t eat to just fill the stomach. In choosing the places to eat and ordering the food we make sure our eating is a delightful experience. That is why the restaurant reviews talk about the décor of the place. That is the reason why the menu card also carries the pictures of the food (along with the price). When we eat, we roll the food in in our mouth before swallowing it. No child washes down MnM (the chocolate brand) with a glass of water though each piece of MnM looks like tablets. But they are colourful chocolate balls. Those who love MnM allow it to slowly melt in their mouth, cherish its taste if it remains and takes another one when the one in the mouth is gone! That is delighting in.
Trusting in God should be a similar delightful experience. God rewards by such trust by granting the desires of our heart. When we delight in God, God keeps us delighted in him. When trust in God raises to that level of delightful experience then there is not reason to fret. We are fully engrossed in what God has done in our life.
A third shade of trust is that it is wise. We don’t trust God blindly, but it is insightful that brings a divine calm in to our lives. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psa 37:7). What is being still? Stillness is that quality of life that there is nothing to be anxious about. The psalm opens with a wise observation that the things that we usually fret over are not there for ever. “For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (Psa 37:2). From his life lessons, the old wise man realized that the pomp and glory of the godless would not last forever. It is this divine insight on life that enriches our trust in God. To trust God is not to be foolish. It is the wisest choice we have made.
When God orders our lives, we don’t need to spend energy on venting our frustrations. We don’t stall on the way like a car that stops in the middle of nowhere on the highway as the heat builds up in the engine. As it has always kept itself cool, it runs its course steadily.