Live in the Land
From Psalm 37
Don’t be upset.
These words begin Psalm 37 in the New Century Version of the Bible: “Don’t be upset because of evil people. Don’t be jealous of those who do wrong” (v. 1). And I’m thinking of the many things that upset me in everyday life …
When we’re running late (because we always are, because that’s my Achilles’ heel) and Olivia decides, right then, that she has to go to the bathroom or that she needs a snack or that she doesn’t actually know how to put on her shoes.
When I spend Sunday afternoon sweeping and mopping and vacuuming, picking up and putting away, and Olivia gets home from a weekend at her dad’s and immediately pulls out every toy she owns.
When I write a bill’s due date on two different calendars and circle it on a sticky note and wake up remembering that I need to pay it but let the clock run to dinnertime before I realize, I didn’t actually pay it, and they tack on a late fee.
Some of this is my fault. Some is just life. But none is what the psalmist was talking about—he’s talking about those deep hurts, or losses, or circumstances, or unmet desires that trouble you day in and day out. Don’t be upset:
Though you’re divorced. Though you want to start a family. Though you didn’t get the job. Though life didn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Though your parents didn’t stay together. Though you’re sick and you hurt and you can’t do what you used to.
Don’t be upset. But how?
Last night, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t talked to in a long while. We chatted about the last ten years, catching up on adventures and careers and family and relationships. One thing stuck out from our conversation as I read Psalm 37 this morning—though single and desiring to be married, my friend has decided to focus on others. On serving. On God.
“Don’t be upset. … Enjoy serving the Lord, and he will give you what you want. Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you” (Psalm 37:1, 4-5).
My friend is doing this. I hope we will too.
Whatever is upsetting us—those deep, troubling upsets that stay with us as life ebbs and flows—I hope we will refuel our joy by refocusing our attention. Here’s what the psalmist recommended, in condensed form (see Psalm 37:1-8):
Don’t be upset. Don’t be jealous.
Trust the Lord.
Live in the land.*
Feed on truth.
Depend on God.
Don’t get angry. Don’t be upset.
*That is, the land you’re already in.
What I see when I read this is, though the deep reason I’m hurt or upset or jealous may still surround me day in and day out, though I wake up with it in the morning and go to bed with it at night, in the middle, during the day, while I’m living my life, I have a choice. There are other things I can do and focus on. Better things: trust, enjoy, live, wait.
This is the lifestyle, perspective, habit of the one who, despite it all, still “has peace” (v. 37).
Next Week’s Reading: Psalm 39–46.