Fret—now that’s a word we don’t hear often any more. We talk of worry and anxiety, perhaps even fear, but fret? Not so much! You know what? I tend to fret. I fret about big things in the world, some situations I see personally that upset me mightily, and problems in my own personal life. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard NOT to fret!
Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD
and wait patiently for him;
Do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil. —Psalm 37:3-8
I need to memorize this, refresh it in my mind every day, and trust its truth straight from the God of truth. These verses represent everything I want, the basics that most people want, at least those who follow Christ. It’s not all an easy prescription; some things I find challenging, and you might find others challenge you. Still, it covers the basics, and yet…I fret.
Here‘s one answer (and a chance to see the above graphic large enough to follow).
I’ll start with the hardest, the personal stuff. I’ve lived my entire adult life in ministry, service to God and to people. After college, I never considered anything else. That commitment has taken me from pastoring a small church, to Christian broadcasting, then Christian peacemaking, teaching in Christian schools, and now refugee tutoring (although I’ve tutored young people right along). Pretty much, every one of those endeavors has been small—small congregation, small radio station, small ministry for conflict resolution, and small schools; now I tutor and hope to create a school for refugees to learn English. I tried hard to make every step in the direction I believed God was leading me to go. I’ve never felt I made a mistake, although I have not always understood the outcomes.
“Trust in him, and he will do it!” It’s clear in Scripture that he promises to meet our needs, and I think it’s just as true that we follow him with a guarantee that he will provide. We live in a culture, though, that hammers us with the idea we must “plan for the future.” I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’ve never had much in the way of resources to do so. Now I’m 62, and I fret. I fret with an income that seems wholly inadequate. I fret when I think about “retirement,” assuming I ever reach such a point. I fret about how to accomplish the task that seems well beyond my means or abilities.
Ready for the answer? Sorry…he just says, “Don’t fret.” I can share that many times, after I’ve fretted, God has come through. He didn’t need my help; he took care of the need. Sadly, I must confess that I have a persistent tendency to fret. I get caught in the space between trusting him completely and fearing I have failed to do my part, even when I have no idea what “my part” is. When things don’t seem to have worked out well, by my judgment, I struggle with guilt; maybe it was my fault.
I stink at sales and self-promotion, and I hate asking people to donate to my ministry. Church wasn’t so bad; there I taught stewardship and openly shared the finances. I know how to do radio sharathons and preserve the integrity of the ministry. However, when it comes to creating an interest in and support of something new, I seem to fail, despite the strength of my passion, first for individual Biblical peacemaking, and now for helping the strangers among us. And so I fret!
I fret about American education. I’ve seen and confirmed too many attitudes that harm students, fail to preserve their curiosity and desire to learn, ignore their need to think with discernment and reason, and ultimately teach them much less than they need. My passion for internationals, especially refugee kids, arises from the schools’ willful choice not to teach them English! People often respond by saying they don’t teach our own students; it should be no surprise that they don’t teach those without competence in English. I suspect something worse, a plan to turn foreign kids into an underclass of laborers, often below the radar of law enforcement. I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but about this situation I feel strongly,…and I fret! At times, I get a little angry; it’s so wrong not to teach, truly help, these kids!
Whom am I to try to change things? Lord, isn’t there someone younger to do this? I’ve never aspired to be like Moses, for goodness sake, but even so, where is my Aaron? Am I crazy even to consider this? Oddly, whenever I raise that question to people, someone always seems to commend me rather than agree. So I pray, and I try not to fret (Ask me about the three mountains I’m asking God to move).
I am so proud to be an American, an heir to our amazing heritage. What other country was ever based on faith and freedom as founding principles? Some bicker over whether this was a Christian nation, looking for the wrong things. Christian ideas were deeply woven into the very fiber of our beginnings, especially our founding documents and landmarks. Today, when some of us raise our concerns for ideas we regard as sacred, we hear the accusation of “theocrat!” Nonsense! Knowledgeable Christians, more than any others, know that Church and State ruling together almost inevitably lead to tyranny, not particularly against unbelievers, but often against disagreeing believers! We don’t want that; we just want to restore principles that keep us free.
I guess I don’t fret quite so much about this threat to the United States. I know it is out of my hands. I write, I chat, and I talk; definitely I vote. I pray but probably not nearly enough! I try to be a godly influence, and I try to reason with those who will engage politely with me, although many have traveled so far from our American character that they tend to be rude, mean-spirited, and downright nasty. Name-calling often supplants civil discourse, both publicly and privately. An adversarial spirit is the norm, one I fought in the personal arena as a peacemaker and mediator.
Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 37 help, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.” Even if they prevail for now, they will not last; their end will be the trash heap of history. That isn’t enough. I don’t want them to win now! That’s when I’m likely to fret, even though he tells me to stop.
Of course, it’s even more difficult not having all the right answers (although, of course, I think I do!). I am not ideological; I don’t support one party, just because I adopted it’s views. I’m a product of my generation, and I tend to distrust human organizations; I’m not strongly attached to any denomination, though I learn toward those who most share my views. To the extent that I have a side, I hate it when “my side” does something stupid, wrong, or even evil—political or spiritual! For example, I wonder if anyone truly cares about immigrants, as other than political pawns. Open borders? Disaster. Sanctuary cities? Chaos. Compassion? Where?
So what’s the answer? Don’t fret. I pray for my needs and in his promises, and I ask him to help me not to fret. I’d be thrilled if you prayed for me, and I’ll gladly do the same for you (if you let me know you fret, too). Maybe if we pray more, we’ll fret less. Maybe, if we ask, he’ll make his fulfillment of his promises a bit clearer, so it’s easier not to fret. Deal?