Psalm 37 is one of several psalms that takes up this perennial problem among God’s people. We become outraged when we see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, when we see a government ordained by God try to push Him out of our lives, when we see it run over the faithful in favor of any and all who claim He doesn’t exist. Especially in today’s political environment, how many times do you find yourself caught up in arguments that leave you steamed and incensed, a fire burning in you to undo the wrong and fix the problem at any cost? You see, that’s what “fret” means.
At first glance I pictured someone pacing the floor and wringing their hands. “Fret” sounds so trivial. The Hebrew word is anything but.
…And Cain was very wroth and his countenance fell, Gen 4:5.
…And let not your anger burn…Gen 44:18.
And my wrath shall wax hot…Ex 22:24.
…And his anger was kindled...Num 11:1.
…And all that are incensed against him…Isa 45:24.
All these words are the same word translated “fret” in Psalm 37. It is not a mild word, but it accurately describes the way so many of my brothers and sisters work themselves up into something they want to call righteous indignation over the way the world works. Stop, the psalmist says by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he says it three times in the first 8 verses of this psalm.
And why? Because it robs God of the things we should be doing and the kind of people we ought to be. It turns us into the very people we are complaining about. The psalmist goes on to tell us exactly how to stop all this fretting.
First of all, consider where the wicked will wind up in the near future. They shall soon fade like the grass, v 2, and In just a little while the wicked shall be no more, v 10. It may not seem “soon” to us. It may seem more like “a long while,” but don’t we trust our Father to do what He says He will? Fretting over these things is nothing more than a lack of faith in God to handle things, and denial of His control over this world.
In fact, the psalmist tells us to concentrate on God. Trust in the Lord (v 3), delight yourself in the Lord (v4), commit your way to the Lord (v5), be still and wait for the Lord (v7). I defy anyone to do those things and still be able to “fret” about the wickedness in the world.
Then he tells us to use all that energy we’ve been expending to “do good” (v 3). As long as we are busy with negative thoughts and actions, we will never do anything positive.
Then he gives us this little bit of wisdom: Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil (v8). Anger and wrath are sure paths to sin if you are not very, very careful. It has been so since Cain and Abel. As we saw in Gen 4:5 above, Cain “fretted,” that is, he became “wroth,” and God told him that as long as he was in that mood “sin couches at the door.” Satan has you right where he wants you when you let things of this world upset you so much that you become “hot” over them.
Zorn says, “Do not let what happens [with the wicked] interfere with your own faithfulness to God nor to your commitment to what is right.” Christians do not mind the things of this world. They set their hopes on the next world, on the eternal existence they have waiting for them. What difference will all this injustice we keep fretting over make then? You might as well believe you can take your wealth with you; you might as well believe in a physical thousand year kingdom on this earth; you might as well believe that your fretting will matter when you first feel the fires of Hell.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…” John 18:36
…for the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God. James 1:20