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A little over three and a half years ago, my mom died. She had a strong faith, and I have no doubt she is in heaven with Jesus. When she passed, I wrote a tribute for her. Even though she’s been gone for a few years, I’m still learning from her.

None of us are perfect, and the past few years provided me the opportunity to evaluate my mom’s life and acknowledge her strengths and weaknesses. I’ve also had the privilege of learning from my wife and mother-in-law. The observations below are not exhaustive, but they have been spiritually formative in my life.

My mom taught me to spend time with Jesus. For many reasons, my mom struggled to sleep through the night. In her latter years, she was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had a breathing machine. Most of the time during my formative years when she would wake up at night, she would get her Bible and begin praying and reading. The memory of seeing her pray and read is imprinted on my mind.

My mom modeled selfless service. Nothing made mom happier than serving her family. That’s just who she was. She loved having us close, feeding us meals, and enjoying the company of her family. Her model challenges me often. Too many times, I connect my acts of service to rights or privileges. I think my service deserves recognition or appreciation. Mom’s example reinforces the concept that we are to serve Christ and trust that he sees, not worrying about any one else.

My mother-in-law reminds me to be compassionate. My mother-in-law has taken in and cared for lame dogs and feral cats. She cares about God’s creatures and will help a person in need with astounding quickness. She even took care of her mother-in-law on her death bed. My mother-in-law’s mother-in-law was mean and cruel with her words for many years. But instead of ignoring her, my mother-in-law returned compassion to the woman who treated her with cruelty. May I have her Christ-like and forgiving spirit.

My wife exemplifies love and grace. Being a pastor’s wife is not easy, and I’m not the easiest person to me married to (especially on Sunday afternoons after preaching three services). But she cares for our family in everyday and important ways: planning grocery orders, making meals, managing our money, and parenting our children. She overlooks my insensitivities and loves relentlessly. Her love inspires and encourages.

My wife teaches me to focus and follow through. In any task she undertakes (writing for a grant, refinishing cabinets, organizing a fundraiser, or planning our family calendar), she is able to concentrate and complete her work with quality and competency. In our age of social media, news on my smartphone, and constant interruption, I am too easily distracted. I envy her gift of concentration and follow through.

My mom, mother-in-law, and wife have modeled sensitivity to others. Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate, but it is also a difficult day for many. Infertility, grief, and broken relationships are experiences that are more acute on days like Mother’s Day. Our prayers, public comments, and interactions with others should reflect this sensitivity. We all need to remember that wherever we are and whatever we’ve been through Jesus sees and Jesus cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

I’ve been reading lately about spiritual formation, growth, and leadership development. And I have a long way to go before God is through with me. But however far I am along in this spiritual life, I owe much to the godly women God has used to shape me. I’m thankful for these Proverbs 31 women in my life.

Here’s a prayer for this meditation.

Father, thank you for the godly influences in my life. Thank you for the models of forgiveness, grace, and compassion that form my spiritual history. Give me eyes to see you at work in the lives of those closest to me. Grant me discernment to see patterns of selfish and sinful behavior in my life. Guide me in applying lessons like these in my daily walk. Glorify your name in my life as you form me into the likeness of Christ.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

My sons enjoy video games, especially Mario games. The story for most of the Mario games revolves around a bad guy taking something or destroying something. The goal of the game is to beat levels, defeat the boss, and ultimately win the game. In video games, we can play until the good guys win. But in real life, what do we do when the bad guys win?

The question that forms the title of this post derives from my devotional reading this week. Throughout Scripture many have wrestled with the tension of the apparent/real success of the wicked. In today’s chaotic world (pandemics, politics, and personal opinions), it is easy for us to lose heart and become frustrated.

It is good for us to remember that we are not alone in these frustrations. The Bible offers us some really good advice on this topic.

Take a moment to read David’s thoughts regarding this topic from the Psalms.

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself 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 act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

David, Psalm 37:1-7

It is all too easy for us to “fret” because of the wicked and forget about the eternal and important. David’s psalm reminds us to focus on what matters, not what doesn’t.

Here’s an analogy. The other day I was talking with one of my sons about frightful thinking. Something he had read was causing him fearful thoughts and making it difficult for him to go to sleep. One option when thinking bad thoughts is to tell ourselves not to think bad thoughts or even to pray about the bad thoughts. The problem with this approach is that we are telling ourselves not to think bad thoughts or praying about thinking bad thoughts. Essentially, we are thinking about the bad thoughts by telling ourselves not to think them. Instead of this option, I encouraged my son to think about something else. I suggested that he quote a Scripture verse, meditate on something good, and pray about something completely different. The key, in this analogy, is to replace our sinful thoughts with good thoughts.

With regard to Psalm 37, we need to replace our frets and frustrations regarding the apparent success of the wicked with thoughts and actions that reflect trust in Lord.

Here are some good thoughts from the text that we should dwell on:

Remember that life is not temporal but eternal. Everyone will answer to God. It may appear that some in our world are getting by with their sin. They are not, and God is the only Holy Judge. Having an eternal perspective is spiritually healthy.

Trust in the Lord by doing what’s good. It is not our place to fret or fix everyone else. The best thing we can do most days is focus on what we know is right. We trust God by doing what we know to be good and right. Doing something good for someone else is a great way to refocus energy away from fears and worries.

Delight in the Lord through worship and prayer. Psalm 37:4 is one of the most quoted Old Testament verses. But if we are not careful, we will misread it. If we think God will grant us our wish list when we worship him, we are misguided. The point of the verse is that when we truly delight in the Lord, we will recognize that he is all we need.

Commit your day and your way to the Lord. Each day offers opportunities for worry, worship, fear or faith. Committing your way to the Lord is an act of trust where we obey God with what we know to do (the clear imperatives in Scripture). We also commit our way to the Lord when we pray and seek his direction for the uncertain areas of our lives.

Wait on God to be God. Too often I get myself in trouble trying to fix what is not my responsibility. Part of what gets us in trouble when the wicked are successful is acting out of frustration and trying to control what is outside our responsibility. Sometimes we just need to wait and be patient.

God knew that I needed to reread Psalm 37 this week. These thoughts have helped me today, and I hope they will help you as well.