Psalm 37:1-3, 5, 7, 12-13 Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither. Trust in the Lord and do good. . . Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Stop being angry! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed . . . The wicked plot against the godly; they snarl at them in defiance. But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Be still in the presence of the Lord.
Wait patiently for him to act.
Stop being angry! It only leads to harm.
Hey, is it just me, or do you also find these instructions challenging? How can we not react with worry, anger, and agitation when we see injustice and wrongdoing hurting people we love and care about? And when we have so little power to make it stop?
Through the guidance of my spiritual director, I’ve had to stop reading about Venezuela every day. It was making me too upset and anxious, affecting my ability to “do good” in other arenas. Instead, though I pray every day, I’m now spending just one focused time catching up on Venezuela each week. And I’m having to apply this to other areas of injustice too. Clearly, I have a long way to go in learning to trust, not be angry, and wait patiently for the Lord to act.
While I was thinking about Psalm 37 this morning, the image came into my mind of a toddler throwing a tantrum. This image does not address the evil that this psalm describes. But it does help me imagine the Lord laughing. Because a toddler is so full of him or herself, so confident that the universe revolves around him or her. Yet toddlers are still so little, and dependent, and limited in their knowledge and understanding that it’s easy to find their displays of temper comical. Haven’t you, as a parent or aunt or uncle or friend, found yourself laughing sometimes at a young child’s certainty of his or her own importance and power?
The tricky thing, as a parent, is not to be pulled in, manipulated, and distracted by toddler drama. I too easily get pulled in and upset by seeing people oppress others, with too little trust in God’s concern about justice. I forget that he is at work behind the scenes, even when I can’t see what he is doing. I forget that I am not impotent: my small attempts to “do good” actually can matter when I give my small loaves and fishes to Jesus (John 6:8-9).
Musing a bit more: a parent who is confident in his own position of love and authority over a little one’s life can respond calmly and proactively when his or her child is out of control. This is what I see God calling me to today. I have let the evildoers of the world have too much power over me. God calls me instead to trust him. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make the justice of your cause shine like the noonday sun (verses 4-6). Can I do it? Only by what the psalmist calls “delight”: conscious, mindful dependence on him, the one who can, in his way and time, make justice shine.