Psalm 37

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.