Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. (ESV)
You don’t need me to tell you the last 18 months have been a mess. A pandemic, deep division and distrust, riots in the streets of developed democracies, closed borders, and much more. All of this has disrupted our rhythms and changed our world. My family has been sent out of the country we’ve called home for the last six years, and we’re now prevented from reentering.
In the midst of the turmoil and the uprooting, I just wanted to do something. Anything. I don’t know how many times I have said “I don’t care what the plan is, I just want a plan.” But none came. I realize we’re not alone in this. Many Christians have moved homes, lost jobs, figured out remote work, and endured a number of unforeseen transitions.
But in the midst of this rapidly changing world, we have a sure hope, an anchor in any storm—the unchanging and faithful Word of God. With this as our lodestar, we stand ready to face any trial.
In this season, the temptation to feel ungrounded has been uncommonly strong. I’ve been particularly helped by Psalm 37. In this psalm, David repeats two phrases with astonishing frequency. Three times in the first eight verses he exhorts, “Fret not yourself.” Five times in those same verses he calls his readers to look to the Lord and trust in Him. In the midst of trying times and unsure circumstances, these verses offer much needed instruction to those who are weary and troubled.
Fret Not Yourself
David is particularly exhorting us not to be envious of the unrighteous who so often seem to flourish while we are languishing. As we so often see in Proverbs, ill-gotten gains are fleeting, while the reward of the righteous is enduring, slow though it may be.
On its face, the exhortation not to fret may seem simple and unnecessary. No one sets out to fret and work themselves up. Nonetheless, David is encouraging us not to dwell on difficulty and perceived injustice. It’s not a sin to face circumstantial difficulties, but we shouldn’t spend our time and energy fretting and worrying about those difficulties. In Psalm 37:8, David reminds us what we already know: when we fret, it leads us into sin. When our eyes are on the world and we’re bitterly thinking that our lives should be different, it’s hard to love and serve those around us. We don’t look to the path of the world or the apparent successes of the wicked. Instead, we turn our eyes to the Lord.
Look to the Lord
David repeats this command in a variety of ways: “Trust in the LORD,” “Delight yourself in the LORD,” “Commit your way to the LORD,” “Trust in him,” and “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.”
By turning our gaze toward God in faith, even in the midst of difficulty and injustice, we’re less prone to fret and worry. When our hope and trust is fully on God, we’re not shaken, even as though the earth shifts beneath us. When our delight is in YHWH who rules the heavens, the bitterest suffering imaginable is light and momentary by comparison. When we commit our ways to our faithful and kind Lord, we can be supremely confident that he will work perfect justice.
The truths of Psalm 37 have prepared me to learn the hardest lesson in this season: Be still and wait patiently. Never in my life has there been such temptation to fret over the condition of the world. In God’s kind providence, I was scheduled to read Psalm 37 on February 7 of this year. Of course, we’ve stayed in limbo far beyond February, but these words have been a faithful and constant companion in the ensuing months.
It’s good to work and to plan, but what’s required above all else is to trust in the Lord as we wait patiently before him.