KALEO Notes: Five Verses to Beat Fretting

Scripture: Psalm 37:1-5

Introduction: Fretting is one of the most common sins among Christians, and one that I struggle with myself. Psalm 37 addresses this issue. It’s a favorite passage of many Christians. Before focusing on verses 1-5, here are some observations about the entire chapter:

  • Psalm 37 was written by David, and he evidently wrote it when he was older. The superscription tells us that he is the author; and verse 25 says: “I have been young, and now am old.” So David He was looking back over his life and making some observations. One of my favorite writers was J. Oswald Sanders, and he lived to be quite old. He was a wonderfully insightful biblical writer. But one of the best things he ever wrote was an article – I think it was in the magazine “Discipleship Journal” – written near the end of his life on the subject “Lessons I’ve Learned.” It was a tremendous article and very practical and written as Dr. Sanders looked back over his long and productive life. That seems to be the idea behind Psalm 37 as David looks back over his long and productive life and tells us lessons He learned.
  • You can’t tell it in the English, but in the Hebrew this is one of the acrostic psalms. It’s divided into 22 stanzas, and each stanza begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. That tells us that the writer – David – wanted to make this easy to memorize. That means it was doubly important.
  • It’s not easy to outline, but it is easy to read and apply. It almost sounds like a chapter from the book of Proverbs. David’s son, Solomon, wrote Proverbs; but maybe he learned from his dad, because we can almost say that Psalm 37 is David’s own collection of Proverbs.
  • In looking at the first five verses, we can devise a little outline of six secrets to overcoming the temptation to fret.
  1. Fret Not Yourself (v. 1-2) – The word “fret” comes from an 11th-century Old English term meaning “to devour.” It was used of monsters and Vikings, and of animals that ate people up. You can see it in the word itself. How do you spell “fret”? The first two letters “fr” were similar to the word “for” or “for the purpose of.” And what are the last two letters of fret? Et! As in eat. So the word described an animal that come to you for eating, or that came to devour you. In earlier days, people worried about encountering a lion or a bear as they traveled. They fretted about it. That’s the origin of this word. Nowadays we use it to describe a worry that is eating us up on the inside. The immediate context has to do with someone prospering whom we don’t like. Here is someone we resent, or with whom we disagree, or who is reprehensible to us—perhaps for good reason. Maybe this is an evil person or exceedingly selfish or proud or powerful. Yet he can’t seem to lose. Everything he touches works out for him. He’s very successful, and you find it grating and frustrating. The Bible says, “Don’t worry about him. Don’t fret about him. God will sort everything out.” Now, if it’s true in this context it is true in all other contexts. People and problems are temporary, and fretting is useless, a failure of faith.
  2. Trust in the Lord (v. 3) – His faithfulness leads to our fret-less-ness. I like to put the first words of verses 1 and 3 together and it gives us the key: “Do not fret… trust.”
  3. Do Good (v. 3) – Stay busy in good works. When you feel like worrying, work instead. Get busy. Distract yourself with the tasks God has given, and leave the rest to Him.
  4. Enjoy the Land (v. 3) – The idea in this phrase is that God had brought the Israelites into a land flowing with milk and honey. He had promised the land to them, and He had given it to them. He didn’t want them moping around in the land, blue and distressed and discouraged. He wanted them to enjoy it. He wants us to enjoy the experience of life, to live with a sense of joy and peace. The last phrase says – Enjoy safe pasture. I like the way the New King James Version puts it: “Feed on His faithfulness.”
  5. Delight Yourself in the Lord (v. 4) – Here is one of the great commands and promises of the Bible. We’re to delight ourselves in the Lord. Not just to serve Him and obey Him and love Him, but to delight in Him. As we delight in Him, He places His priorities and desires in our hearts, and then He fulfills them. Verse 23 gives us an interesting cross-reference. It says: “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm.” As we delight in the Lord, He delights in us.
  6. Commit Your Way to Him (v. 5). The word “commit” comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to roll.” You can give it all over to Him. Trust in Him, and He will do it.

Conclusion: We can’t always just flip a switch and stop fretting. We have to process the things that worry us. If I’m particularly worried about something, I have to write it out in my journal, think it out in my mind, pray it out in my quiet space. In so doing, I come to a place of giving it to the Lord. We sometimes rightly say that all our sins are nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. Remember: All our worries are also nailed to the cross of Him who said, “Let not your heart be troubled.”