“Fret not thyself because of evil doers,
neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” Psalm 37:1
Fretting seems to be an old word that we don’t really use any more and we usually associate it with an older woman worrying over children or difficult situations, but the meaning is so much broader and entails a variety of emotions. The Hebrews meaning involves anger, arousal, burning rage, jealousy, contention, wrath, displeasure, and grief. It is not the simple banter and emotional upheaval of grandma, but an action that is fuelled by all of these emotions.
The object of fretting in the verse seems to be the prosperity of those who live opposed to God’s Word. We find it hard to understand how they are blessed and happy. We see them succeeding in business and life and we get envious. Our lives don’t seem to be as happy or prosperous and we begin to think that God has done us an injustice and we wonder if being a Christian and obeying God’s Word is really worth it. Ever had those thoughts?
This Psalm goes on to assure us that God will make all things just and fair in the end. However, the instruction of this first verse is about our own attitude toward the unfairness of life, as we perceive it. I think the evildoers and workers of iniquity are not the real objects of the instruction, but rather, it is to our own hearts of discontent. Instead of resting in the truths of God’s love and care for us, we allow our hearts and thoughts to dwell with anger, jealousy and grief about our own plight. We fail to be thankful and to mind our own business. Nowhere in God’s Word are we told that it is our business to make things even and just. We are told to live good lives, which God alone will judge. When life is finished I only have to answer for myself before God. Why waste my energy fretting over the wrongs of others? Except, of course, to hold them up in prayer before God.
What causes you to fret? Can you see past it to the real attitude and motivation of your own heart? Be honest, what adjustments do you need to make?
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him; fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” Psalm 37:7
This usage of the word “fret” is exactly the same as Psalm 37:1. It is to be filled with anger and jealousy and grief over the actions of others. But this time the writer gives us a stance or a place where we can find instruction on how to not fret.
Rest and patience are the opposite of a fretful attitude. Resting in the Lord means that we really trust Him and His Word. Resting implies quietness and assurance of life. Resting means that we are not fussing around or striving for something bigger and better, but that we are content. Patience means that we can endure hardness or injustice without rising to the occasion emotionally. Patience implies that we know there is something better in the future and that the annoyances of today are only temporary. Patient waiting for the Lord means that we truly believe His Word and his promises to make all things right in the end.
J. Burroughs writes: “…the hearts of men who are full of themselves and hardened with self-love, if they receive a stroke (a difficulty in life) they make a noise, but the self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand and makes no noise.” Fretting is a noise of the heart - a direct opposite to resting and patience.
I Peter describes the two qualities of a godly woman. Her spirit is defined as meek and quiet. I think this fits in well here because when you examine these two qualities you will find that meek and quiet means basically a spirit that is not ruled by fear or anger. This seems to match with the opposite of being fretful.
So, the questions come today, “Are you living a fretful life ruled by fear and anger, or a meek and quiet life exemplified by rest and patience? What noise does your heart make when ruffled?”
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; fret not thyself in any wise to do evil, for evildoers shall be cut off, but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37:8, 9
Again, the word fret has exactly the same definition. But the verse goes on to define our actions now in more of a negative way that verse 7. We see the actions of fretting – anger, wrath, contemplation of vengeance.
People used to talk about “stewing in their problems”. This is a really appropriate colloquialism for fretting. It is allowing an unjust situation to overtake your thoughts and reactions. Anger boils and outburst are usually directed at those we love instead of the evildoer. We conjure up words we would like to say or actions we wish we could do to those who we perceive as wrong. Our prayers are consumed with the desire for God to judge them or remove them or show them that they are wrong. We are willing to have any part in their downfall and even may speak to them directly or try to manipulate situations that will expose their wrongdoing or cause them to be hurt or embarrassed. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
By allowing fretting to overtake us, we become just as ugly and just as wrong as our enemy. We remove ourselves from the place of blessing and become unhappy and bitter.
The instruction from the verse is again to wait. But it is important to see that we are not to wait to see vengeance, or wait until we get the chance to point out their wrong, rather, we are to wait on the Lord. That is vastly different.
Waiting on the Lord means to allow God to have all the time he needs to work in the situation and in our hearts. It means to cease from our fretting and simply turn the whole situation over to the Lord, waiting for His hand alone. We might never see the wrongdoer punished or the fruit of his wicked exposed, but if we are waiting on the Lord, we can be assured that the Lord will work his plan and in time our hearts will be settled on him and our fretting will cease.
Is there a situation you need to turn over to the Lord? Why not stop stewing and start waiting?
“The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3
This verse might read – Man’s foolish ways get his life all twisted and then he blames God. Perverteth means twisted and fretteth means to rage against, become angry, or to look dejected and pitiful.
Funny isn’t how everything seems to wind up God’s fault? One of the questions many people ask is how God allows all the wickedness in the world, or for people to suffer, or for injustice to reign. They never stop to think that man’s ways have brought trouble to himself.
When Cain’s offering was refused, the Bible says that his countenance fell. This means that he was disheartened. He knew he had not done what God had required, but instead of repenting and making an acceptable sacrifice, he slew his brother. And when God dealt out the punishment he said it was more than he could bear and again, instead of repenting, he went away from the Lord. From then on the way of Cain grew more and more twisted, yet repentance never came. No doubt he blamed God.
Sometimes our lives get in a real mess. Sometimes it is none of our doing, we get caught up in the messes of others. Either way, it is the foolishness or poor decisions that bring us to a twisted and difficult life. We have two choices. We can blame God or others and fret against them growing more bitter each day, or, we can own up to our mistakes and bring them to God in repentance and ask him to make our twisted lives straight again. Fretting or freedom, those are the two choices.
Which one will you choose today?
“Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord God…” Ezekiel 16:43
This usage of fret has the idea of shaking with anger or of causing a disturbance. Seems God is not very happy with the actions of Israel. If we look at the context of the verse we see that Ezekiel is recording the Word of the Lord to the people of Jerusalem. They were guilty of sin. They had forgotten their history and their shameful worship of false gods. They had even sacrificed their children to these false gods.
God had pronounced judgement upon them. Their prosperity would end and their city would be destroyed. Their deaths would be violent and would come by the hand of the idolatrous people with whom they had joined league. They were guilty and God was righteous in dealing with their sin.
Sin really bothers God. It moves him to action and distresses His Spirit. It really ought to bother us as well. We should not rest in sin or be unaffected by it. It ought to make us fret in the sense that it makes us uncomfortable or causes a disturbance in our lives so much so that we want rid of it.
Maybe its time to take a look at any sin we are allowing in our lives? Maybe its time for some hard questions about how comfortable we are with wickedness and the worldly attitudes that are around us and possibly in our own homes and lives. Maybe we ought to fret at bit more and then seek to eradicate those elements that would not be pleasing or would not bring peace to our lives. Better to take care of it ourselves before God has to!
What sin needs to be eradicated from your life? What sin is causing discomfort? Are you ready to agree with God and repent of it?