Psalm 37 is a Psalm of David that contrasts the ways of the wicked with the ways of the righteous. David is in a good position to comment on the things listed in this Psalm, for David really did face almost every high and low a person can experience in their life. He faced trials, violence, poverty, betrayal, and hunger alongside the wealth and power he would have later in his life. Many wanted him to fail. Many wanted him dead. Still, time and again in the psalm, David admonishes his readers to “fret not.”
We worry about the harm we perceive as possible from others. We sometimes become envious when we see those we perceive as less righteous succeeding financially where we struggle. Other times, we may feel we have no choice but to become like the wicked if we are going to be successful ourselves. Still, our admonition is the same: “Fret not.”
Purging the Stress of Comparisons
David first suggests to us that God is ultimately in control. We may look around and see a world spiraling out of control, but verses 7, 12-13, 17-18, 25, and 40 reinforce God’s involvement in upholding and preserving the righteous. It may be hard to remember, but our God is in control of eternity.
David also encourages us to take positive action. Verses 3 and 27 admonish us to actively do good. Instead of dwelling on all others are doing wrong, we can make an effort to be a light of goodness in this world, just as Peter tells Jesus did in the face of detractors (Acts 10:38). Romans 12:21 encourages to overcome evil with goodness, and Galatians 6:10 tells us to work good toward all. Finally, I Peter 2:12 reminds us that our good works glorify God, even in the face of persecution and discouragement. When we are engaged in active good, it’s all the harder to waste our time fretting over the evil we see in others.
We also to direct our minds to higher goals and higher ideals. Instead of focusing on succeeding in this world, we should be lifting our eyes higher. Psalm 37:4 tells us to delight in Jehovah, and Colossians 3:1-2 reminds us to set our minds on things above instead of upon this world. Our aim is not to get ahead in this life. Rather, it is to achieve a heavenly goal. If our eyes are lifted to Heaven, the burdens of this world way much less.
Psalm 37:5 encourages us to commit ourselves to God, just as Jesus said to seek God’s kingdom first above all things. Philippians 1:12-14, verse written by Paul while in jail, speaks of the progress Paul makes in the Lord’s work while in captivity. Instead of looking upon all he had lost, Paul focuses on the accomplishments he can achieve for God in the circumstances he is in. Regardless of our own circumstances – perhaps pressured to compromise morals, loss of income or friendships, alienation of peers – we can remain committed to God’s work.
In the end, we have to fall back on a foundation of patience in God. We are used to instant gratification, but God’s timetable is not our timetable. In Psalm 37:7, David encourages on us to wait in the Lord. We need to trust in Him and not let impatience derail our spiritual peace.
In Romans 5:3, Paul says that endurance is sometimes developed in times of trial. When we face difficulties, we find out what we are really made of. Paul goes on to remind us that those trials redirect our minds toward the hope we should have in Christ. When we are in pain, when we are worried, when we are facing trials, it is easy to lose sight of this. Our hope is in Him, though, and we can be patient in Him, keeping our eyes on things above.
Proverbs 3:5 encourages us trust God. Verse 7 admonishes us to reverently honor Jehovah, and verse 9 calls on us to honor Him. He will uphold us and protect us if we seek refuge in Him. Our minds should be set on Him, honoring and trusting in Him, rejecting the strains of this world so we can reach for a home above.
lesson by Tim Smelser