Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fret Not

Following up on the points about worry and anxiety recently, I offer some thoughts from this reminder which is dear to me. Psalm 37 is the Fret Not psalm - a good one to mark if worry is a constant companion.

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass...Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him...Do not fret - it only causes harm." Psalm 37:3 - 8

1. The first word is hard enough: TRUST. Trust not in our own abilities and instincts, but in the Lord. Trust in the Lord, and go about doing that which is good....pleasing to the Lord. It suggests both attitude and action.....outlook and activity. There will come a time - or many of them - when we have to decide how to answer the question, "Can you trust Me with your life?" (or with your child? or with your future? or with your money?).

I have chosen to answer that with a Yes. Not, "Yes, if you will protect them..." Or "Yes, but you owe me..." It doesn't work that way. I'm all in.

This 'yes' does not come with an insurance policy giving a force field of protection around those I love. Storm clouds will gather, and we will suffer casualties that I do not want to imagine. We live in a broken world. But we do not live life alone. So I want to learn how to trust.

Yesterday I heard two TV commentators discussing salaries. One was talking about how much money he has been giving away: "You know what I'm doing: I'm trying to buy my way into Heaven!" The other man nodded approvingly and said, "Haven't we all."

That exchange revealed both their attitude and their action. They were trusting in their generous distribution of wealth to secure a post in the hereafter. "Doing good" is a worthy directive to follow to be sure, but we must not leave trusting God out of the computation.

2. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness reminds me that we are to be in a place of God's provision. God does provide. Jehovah Jireh is my beloved Hebrew exclamation when God provides, and is a very name for God, since the ancients approached YHWH with such respect as not even to speak the name aloud - barely brushing by the designation - even writing it so that it was incapable of being pronounced.

How far we have come from that stance! As a society, we have blasphemed and mocked the name of God, stripping it bare of respect and awe. To feed on His faithfulness is to remember times in the past of God's faithfulness, and to tell the story again. Write it down. Memory fails. Keep it fresh. Note when it happens again. And again. This present tense verb indicates continuous action.

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. All I have needed Thy hand has provided, great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me...." *

3. Delight yourself in the Lord, and you will receive the desires of your heart. That was how I recalled this verse from memory, even writing it down that way recently in a journal. It would be easy to loosely translate this statement, "If you act like you are delighted in the Lord , then you will get what you are hoping for." That approach is even preached in some churches. However, when I went to the source to find the cite for Psalm 37, I found that it was not written as I had recalled.
"Delight yourself in the Lord,
He will give you the desires of your heart."
Do you catch the difference? God does the giving! God plants the desires into our hearts! God is able to establish what it is that we long for...what we love....where our heart's desire is. God is able to change our minds and hearts, to do miraculous things in our lives, to recalibrate our very thinking when we live with delight in the Lord.

Are you out of love? God can sow a fresh desire for your spouse or loved one when you think there is nothing left to breathe life into. Out of resources? Let the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and created all that is show us how to manage or create in another way. Out of time? God does His best work in tight spaces. It is only the 11th hour to us; God has all the time in the world!

Our part is to 'delight ourselves in the Lord' and leave it to God to give us the desires of our hearts. I believe it is then that a circle of sorts completes. We may find that we desire the things of God....that we delight in the things of God....and discover a unity of Spirit and purpose as we live life with the Spirit of Truth abiding within. (See John 14 for more on the Spirit.)Blockquote
4. Commit your way... Trust in Him. He shall bring it to pass. Our part is to trust. God does not owe us anything. We do not contract or bargain for God's provision. This is not Let's Make a Deal. We often get hung up on the 'it' part, above. Some think that means that God shall bring to pass 'what we want.' I disagree. I believe God is sovereign and eminently trustworthy.

5. Rest in the Lord. Wait patiently for Him. Resting can be hard and waiting patiently harder still. We are people who do not wait well.

In making small as well as big decisions, use the time to contemplate and pray. Usually our decisions are made out of habitual responses or because we are seeking to please ourselves. Allow space for God to influence our responses. The more we delight ourselves in the things of God, the more we come to know the mind of Christ and to tune into the Spirit that God has allowed to dwell within. This is not a matter of how well we manage to do the task of 'delighting' (which would make it all about us), but is a matter of God's gift of faith allowing us to trust all the more.

6. Fret not. It only causes harm. Not only is worry not helpful, it is counterproductive - even harmful. The connections of worry and tension to physical maladies are clear. Worry does absolutely no good.

Look at the worrisome situation so as to break it down into smaller pieces. Identify those parts that we cannot change. Some things are outside our control or influence to alter. Acknowledge it, and begin to let it go. It may want to 'fly back home' out of habit, perhaps, and stay with us when we are accustomed to ruminating and worrying as a default setting. Changing such a pattern may take time and intentional effort, but we can learn to deliberately set aside the things we cannot change. We then begin the process of acceptance.

The Serenity Prayer is aptly named:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Next, we take up the parts that we can change. Name them. View them one at a time. See what comes to mind in reliance on our skills set and experience as well as the creative capacity and wisdom of God who inspires and encourages us in all things. Most things we worry about did not get in the worrisome condition overnight, and will not be resolved instantly. This life is not a sprint. We need endurance for the journey.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.

Pray that you will be strengthened with all of God's glorious power so that you will have all the endurance and patience you need. Colossians 1:11

* Hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness inspired by Lamentations 3:
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him'" (Lamentations 3:19-24).

photo by Rob Kiser

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