I “rediscovered” a psalm recently: Psalm 37. Of course, I’ve read it countless times over the years, but somehow, it jumped out at me. I’m calling it the “Don’t fret” psalm. Pull it out and read it. David encourages the reader three times in the first eight verses, “Fret not yourself.” “Fret not yourself because of evildoers (vs. 1); “…fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way…” (vs. 7); “Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil.” (vs. 8).
This is a message I can’t hear enough! It’s the Old Testament version of my go-to New Testament passages about anxiety. Philippians 4:6: “… do not be anxious about anything.” And the granddaddy anxiety admonition of them all from the lips of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…” (Matthew 5:25)
But the fact is, it’s hard to do a negative. Hard to NOT do something. The best way to stop doing something destructive or corrosive…is to replace it with something more powerfully life-giving. A well-known Scottish theologian from the 18th century, a St. Andrews University professor named Thomas Chalmers, once wrote a little treatise called The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. His thesis is that the human heart is not a vacuum. The only way to expel the destructive instincts we might harbor…is to replace them with new, powerful, and better alternatives. The good kicks out the bad.
Which is why I’ve fallen in love with Psalm 37. It gives me alternatives with expulsive power! It is packed with fret countermeasures; wonderful, action words that can replace pointless and destructive anxiety. Listen to these great verbs: “TRUST in the Lord…” (vs. 3) “DELIGHT yourself in the Lord…” (vs. 4) “COMMIT your way to the Lord…” (vs. 5); “BE STILL before the Lord and WAIT patiently for him…” (vs. 7)
These days, in our nation, there’s a whole lot of frettin’ going on. Shrill voices declare our nation…our very way of life…is at risk. Perhaps you were thrilled with the results of this week’s elections. Perhaps disconsolate. Perhaps meh. But the truth is, if we think we can vote ourselves into a state of serenity, we will be disappointed. There’s always another election cycle right around the corner. Always another opportunity to have our hopes dashed. Our peace…our hope…our confidence cannot be tied to elections, our wealth, our career, our relationships, our family, or any other thing. Only God. Only God. Only God.
Repeat those verbs out loud. “Trust in the Lord.” “Delight yourself in the Lord.” “Commit your way to the Lord.” “Be still before the Lord.” That, beloved…only that…is the antidote to our fretting.
See you Sunday.