TO CHEW ON: "Cease from anger and forsake wrath
Do not fret — it only causes harm (it only leads to evildoing - NASB)." Psalm 37:8
So much of our frame of mind and sense of well-being depends on our thoughts. In Psalm 37 David gives us some good thought guidelines. He begins by telling us some thought patterns to shun: anger, wrath, and fretting. In fact, he warns against fretting three times (vs. 1, vs. 7, vs. 8).
"Fret" in Hebrew is charah, a primitive root also translated angry, and kindled. Its English definitions are so telling for our context:
1] to be vexed, annoyed, troubled.
2] to become worn, chafed or corroded.
3] to bite away bit after bit of something with or as with the teeth.
4] to eat through something by or as if by corrosion.
5] to rankle, fester.
6] to become rough or agitated, as water.
Synonyms are irritate, vexation, annoyance, uneasiness.
Do you tend to fret? I know I do. When something troubles me I am like a dog with a bone, biting, chewing, gnawing, then burying but always coming back to uncover my worry so that I can bite, chew and gnaw some more.
David doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves against the negative thoughts of anger, envy and fretting. Psalm 37:1-20 is full of good thought options. We can instead:
"Trust in the Lord" (vs. 3). This is putting the weight of ourselves - our past histories, present circumstances, and future hopes, dreams, expectations, and fears - on God.
"Dwell in the land" (vs. 3). Though not a thought per se, dwelling connotes a rooted, settled, contented existence.
"Delight yourself in the Lord" (vs. 4). We need to focus on God's good character and gifts to us and not on our lacks as compared to what someone else has.
"Commit your way to the Lord" (vs. 5). Literally, we roll ourselves and our way onto God. We let God take the wheel of life, not fixated on the route we take but giving Him the right to move us here or there,
"Rest in the Lord" (vs. 7). We are silent, still, at ease, relaxed.
"...wait patiently" (vs. 7). We aren't in a hurry to see things completed. We live by God's timetable.
"Cease from anger" (vs. 8). We refrain from, let go of, withdraw from anger. This is something we can do — a willful action on our part.
We don't need to be at the whim of negative thinking. But to avoid the tyranny of our destructive thoughts we need to first recognize, then put the brakes on angry, anxious, fretful ones, and finally replace them with thoughts of trust, contentment, delight, commitment, rest, and patience.
PRAYER: Dear God, as I face a new week, I'm sure I'll be tempted to fret. Help me to replace fretting with constructive thoughts of You and Your goodness to me. Amen.
MORE: Not doubt but fear
"Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt. Perhaps the opposite of faith is fear. To lack faith perhaps isn't as much an intellectual disbelief in the existence of God as fear and distrust that there is a good God."
- Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts, Kindle location 2091