By David Faust
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. . . . Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25, 27). When they heard Jesus’ teaching, students of the Hebrew Scriptures may have recalled Psalm 37, which cautions about worrying and tells us what to do instead.
Psalm 37 says not to “fret,” which means to be bothered, vexed, troubled, or upset. The Hebrew word suggests “boiling up” with anger and indignation.
Fretting Doesn’t Help
Fretting doesn’t bring justice; but God will. “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away” (vv. 1, 2). A bitter, envious heart makes nothing better and a lot of things worse. It’s as irrational as beating your own body so others will feel pain. God is just; he will deal with life’s injustices.
Besides, fretting doesn’t solve our problems; it creates more problems. “Do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (vv. 7, 8). Counterproductive and self-destructive, worry causes stress and symptoms from ulcers to insomnia. Constant anger wears away the soul like rust corroding metal or termites chewing wood.
Alternatives to Fretting
Psalm 37 mentions some positive steps we can take to replace worry.
Trust. “Trust in the lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (v. 3). But notice: faith requires active obedience. “Trust . . . and do good.” Like well-fed sheep guided by their shepherd, we can “dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” when we trust and obey.
Delight. “Take delight in the lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (v. 4). Now, that verse isn’t a Scriptural credit card for self-indulgence. If the desire of your heart is to be a billionaire enjoying a lavish lifestyle, God doesn’t guarantee to grant your wish. The first part of the verse is the key to the second part. “Take delight in the Lord!” Make him the focus of your love and the desire of your heart, and God will satisfy your longings. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Commit. Psalm 37 urges, “Commit your way to the lord; . . . He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (vv. 5, 6).
Wait. God isn’t in a hurry; he has all eternity at his disposal. “Be still before the lord and wait patiently for him” (v. 7). His intentions are good and his purpose will ultimately be fulfilled.
It’s tempting to accept worry as a normal part of life, but God calls us to replace fretting with faith. Trust God. Delight in him. Commit to do his will. Wait for him to fulfill his promise: “A little while, and the wicked will be no more . . . . But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity” (vv. 10, 11).
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of the Lookout.
1. What have you been fretting about lately?
2. Instead of fretting, what steps could you take to cast your cares upon the Lord?