When my brother was in high school, he belonged to Key Club, an affiliate of Kiwanis. A man in our hometown encouraged Mark to run for the statewide office of Lieutenant Governor. Mark did, and then the man who had suggested he make himself open to this possibility worked against him. Mark lost the election.
When I was in seminary, a classmate approached me saying that I should be the president of the class. Not long after that, I missed a meeting because of illness, and that classmate emerged as the candidate for president.
The writer of Psalm 37 says that we are not to fret because of the wicked; that we are not to be envious of wrongdoers, “for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb … do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.” But how do we not fret? And are we comfortable with the term “wicked,” calling other human beings wicked? Psalms are jammed with references to the evil, wicked, enemy, proud, arrogant. Woe to those who cross the psalmist. Isn’t it better to distinguish between the person or persons and his or her behavior? To speak of wicked doings, evil works, rather than to label people as wicked or evil?
Even so, even when we ferret out that we’re talking about the actions, the words that hold evil inherently in their nature, when we separate that label out and apply it to the behaviors rather than to the human beings involved, how can we keep from fretting? How can we keep from being cowed by the power and importance we project onto them? How can we keep from being envious when they appear to prosper? It’s easy to think that we just can’t deal with, set straight, manage such a presence in our lives. So how do we join the psalmist and determine that we will not fret, that we will instead trust in the Lord, and do good; take delight in the Lord; commit our way to the Lord; be still before the Lord; and wait patiently for God?
A friend recently shared with me how she deals with the suffering caused by the wickedness of others in her own life. She doesn’t fret; she knows that God will handle the situation, the person causing her suffering; she believes, she says with a slight shrug, as if it’s just an easy truth for her, a truth with absolute clarity, that God is sovereign. God is sovereign.
And she considers herself married to God. That is where her heart is, and she knows that all good things that come to her with have their genesis, their origin, in that marriage with God. When she told me that, it reminded me of nuns who wear wedding rings to symbolize their being married to Christ.
Years ago, my family and I lived in a small Mayberry-like town in central Missouri. We lived in a house built in 1844 in a neighborhood lined on both sides of the street with other old houses. The kids rode their big wheels up and down the sidewalks under the canopy of shade trees. A friend across the street and I talked about how close we were, like sisters. Not long after that conversation, I went on a trip with another friend. When I came back home, I learned that my neighborhood friend had dumped me and replaced me with a new friend. The blow came out of nowhere and hit me right in the solar plexus. Broken-hearted, my suffering was unspeakable.
It felt as if she were prospering – after all, she had a new friend, and I did not. She and her husband spent lots of time with her new friend and her husband. And my husband and I did not. And, of course, experiences like that do happen to all of us from time to time as we live out our lives. When it does, I now know to do what my friend did: I consider myself bonded to God.
The other day I went to my jewelry chest and got out my great-grandmother’s wedding ring; it had been Granny’s first, of course, my mother’s maternal grandmother. My mother’s father also wore it for a while after he lost his own wedding ring. I put it on my finger to remind me all day every day that I am God’s, and all good things that will come to me in my life will be birthed out of that relationship.
I ran into my lost friend shortly after I came back from my trip and, crying, I told her how hurt and mystified I was. She promised she would call me so that we could talk. One day went by, two days, three days, and no call. So I walked across the street to her house to see what I could find out to help me make sense of what had happened. My friend inadvertently gave me what I needed. She told me that her mother had been married three times, and she still remembers being pulled up onto her lap and being told that they were getting ready to go through another divorce. My friend said that her belief is that people will do you wrong eventually, and I saw that in her mind it’s safer to take the preemptive strike. I think she had subconsciously interpreted my going on a trip with another friend as abandonment, and so she cut me out of her life before I could cut her out of mine.
The emotional scar is still there, but the psalmist is right, and I have gone ahead to experience the unending joy and fullness of life that come only from God. And I know that with Granny’s ring on my finger, all wickedness and evil I encounter will fade like the grass; will wither like the green herb. And that, with my wise and spirit-filled friend, I can, we all can:
Trust in the Lord and live in security;
Take delight in the Lord and know that God will give us the desires of our hearts;
Commit our ways to the Lord and know that God will act;
and we can be still before the Lord and wait patiently for God, all the while watching the grass fade and the green herb wither away into nothingness.
37:1 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
37:2 for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret–it leads only to evil.
37:9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.