Have you noticed that when you get hot under the collar, it can cloud your judgement? Depending on your character, you may find you can’t think straight or even that you can’t think at all. For some, paralysis sets in, while for others a manic activity takes over. Frustration or disappointment causes some people to be galvanised into action and others to throw their hands up in despair. Some are able to take productive action; others merely flap around in fruitless, frenetic storms.
Advice will fly in from many directions in order to restore some sense of order. “Calm down” or “Take it easy” will be heard from the wings. The general tone will involve staying cool, slowing the heart rate and taking a deep breath.
Here again, the usefulness of this advice will relate to your character and the reason you are fretting. It may be that in your exasperation, being encouraged to calm down is like pouring petrol on the fire. It could be that the cause of your frustration is a constant rather than a one-off problem. It may even be that you are frustrated with yourself for making a foolish mistake. Your reply might start, “It’s all very well for you” followed by a long list of reasons why calming down or staying cool is not that easy.
David, the psalmist, moves us to another point in his A-Z. He introduces a series of alternative routes which should lead not to the heart attack, breakdown or fistfight, but to other places.
His first alternative to fretting is not to be cool but to be trusting. Of course, he is not arguing that you put your trust in the company, the blindness of justice or the hands of fate. He does not argue that you trust in the law of what goes around, comes around.
‘Trust in the Lord and do good’ is David’s alternative to fretting. Trust will have to be in someone sufficiently big to take the sting out of all your irritation, short and long-term. It will have to be in someone who does understand and of whom it cannot be said ‘Of course, it’s all very well for you’. Trusting in the Lord is the catalyst for activity but it is not frenetic or inappropriate – it is ‘good’. This route should lead you away from the fire to the water and help you see things in a different light. It’s the first of many routes which are worth exploring in a fretful world.
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18 The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.
20 But the wicked will perish:
Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.
21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.
23 The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.
32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the LORD will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.
34 Hope in the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
36 but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found.
37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future for the wicked.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
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