Do Not Fret (Easy for You to Say)
Do not fret over those who prosper in their way, those who carry out evil devices. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. – Psalm 37:7-8
“Do not fret,” the psalmist proclaims three times in eleven verses. That’s like telling someone, “Don’t think of elephants.” And they immediately think of elephants. No wonder one Biblical commentator wrote of Psalm 37: “The Psalms are of different qualities and this is not one of the greatest.”
Besides, we have a lot to fret about in our 24/7 world. Just turn on the news or read the paper or scan Facebook. We have real problems. All the psalmist had to worry about were evildoers, exile, disease, crop failure, and famine.
All kidding aside, Psalm 37 offers much-needed wisdom for our time. It doesn’t just say “don’t fret.” It provides a way to deal with our fears: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Take delight in the Lord. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in God and God will act.”
Trust. Do good. Take delight. Commit to God’s way. The psalm is filled with action verbs to break out of the paralysis that our anxiety produces. Take the next step, the psalmist says, and trust that God is with you.
The psalmist also knows that sometimes the best antidote to anxiety is not to do anything—with intention. “Be still before the Lord, wait patiently for God.” In a word, trust that God is at work in the world, even when we’re not. Try to take a break today from your work and the news to remember that truth.
When fear and fretting get the best of us, O God, help us to trust and delight in you again. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.