1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
37 a. Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.
When my children started the school year every September, they would bring home the classroom rules. As they got older, they would bring home 2-3 page forms that not only they had to sign, but I had to as well. These "classroom covenants" spelled out how success in academia could be achieved.
Psalm 37: 1-7, 37a is our spiritual successful spiritual living. The psalmist starts where we are at. He presumes (often correctly!) we get stuck and resentful -- we ponder the good fortunes of the wicked and those who are successful and get away with wrongdoing. We read about them in the news, they shape our lives through their political and economic influence, perhaps they even live in our neighborhood or are a member of our family.
The scriptures do not deny that evil doing and injustice, and turmoil exist in our world. Look at the power of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, the typhoons in South Asia, the wildfires on the West Coast, the ruling against DACA this past week. Despite how upset we may get, we are not to emulate wrong doers. Instead we are to be the antidote our spiritually out-of-balance world needs. How do we succeed at this?
Listen to some of the "rules for living" the psalmist gives:
"trust in the Lord.."
"take delight in the Lord.."
"Commit your way to the Lord"
"Trust in him.."
"Be still and wait patiently.."
"Consider the blameless... consider the upright"
The spiritual action plan we are given contains powerful ingredients. In spite of everything negative we read in world affairs we are to trust in God. Trust is taking an active stance of siding with God. We throw down the gauntlet, so to speak. We believe that what God stands for, who God is, merits our love and loyalty even if it means we must make sacrifices and forgo the easy path. We trust in God, even if what we are called to looks naive or foolish in the world's eyes.
This trust manifests in doing good in the world. We make the world a better place through our caring choices and acts of generosity. Trust is not passive. Trust requires action and follow up on our part -- even courage -- otherwise we're just playing it safe.
If we trust in God, we not only do good but we learn to commit our way to him and delight in God. We turn over to God our plans for God's approval or correction. We place our lives under God's scrutiny, believing that God's "makes all things come together for the good (Romans 8:28)."
The psalmist takes it a step further: we called to not only trust but to delight in God. Trusting God isn't a painful exercise or one of drudgery. If we trust then God's vision fills us with joy. Following God's feels right and lightens our hearts. Taking delight is found in the context of love, trust and commitment. Doing good feels right and lifts our spirit.
One of the hardest aspects of this trust in God and commitment of our plans to God is learning to be still and wait patiently. We are raised to believe time is a commodity and we when we wait we are loosing out on life or on some potential opportunity. On the spiritual path, the opposite can be true. Rushing and being impatient can lead to the opposite of our desires. This is because patience is key to developing a compassionate heart. With patience we learn to be open to other points of view and to understanding the struggles of others-- which might not be so evident if we are so busy rushing around. Patience helps to keep judging others in check, which is one of the reasons God wants us to commit our plans to him. God, like a good teacher, wants to unearth our hidden depths of kindness and compassion. So we submit our draft dreams and goals to our Divine Teacher so they can be fashioned to be our very best.
So how do we put it all together? Instead of considering the wrongdoings and evil around us, God wants to led us into community: to take us to people who are "blameless" and "upright." They are all around us. We are encouraged to seek them out. To learn from them. To let them influence our thinking. There's a saying, "hang out with the winners." We can't do this alone. So to succeed spiritually, we need to be in the winners' circle: those people who are generous, kind, forgiving, patient, trusting, who love the Lord and who are actively doing good. It will rub off.
Ultimately the Psalm 37 "mini-rule book" tells us that there "a future awaits those who seek peace." We are created for peace; it is our birthright. Remember the biblical understanding of peace, which among other things means wholeness, being complete, "perfect," living in harmony. Psalm 37 assures us that peace is the byproduct of following our "rule book": trusting God, doing good, committing our ways to God, finding delight in God, learning stillness and patience, and learning from those who are blameless and upright.
Let us continue our spiritual pilgrimage together --together let us create peace in our midst!
Pray: "O God, teach me the rules of spiritual living, and bring into my life those persons who can help me become my best and achieve your peace. amen."