Dictionary.com says that fretting means to feel or express worry, annoyance, discontent, as in: Fretting about the lost ring isn't going to help. However, in this verse and in the Hebrew language that it was written, fretting goes beyond anxiety.
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:8–9)
Chambers says fretting means “getting out at elbows mentally or spiritually.” My Hebrew dictionary says it is to be kindled, angry and upset. Part of that meaning is seen in the context of these verses; lashing out is clearly indicated.
As Chambers says, it sounds easy to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him — until my comfort zone is invaded. Then I fret. And fretting is an expression of my determination to be comfortable, to be in control. Wanting to control my own life and circumstances is the root meaning of sin.
Resting in the Lord is freedom. It is being set free from the tyranny of always insisting that I have my own way. It is the freedom from the hard work of having to manipulate life and people so I can have what I want when I want it. Do I not trust God?
More and more I realize the wisdom in my mother’s oft remark: “We must need it or we wouldn’t be getting it.” She applied this mostly to the stuff we didn’t want like bad weather or some sort of trial. But it applies to the good stuff too.
Yesterday our pastor said that we will experience great joy by realizing that everything is a gift from God. It is relatively easy to do that when life goes well or when an unexpected bonus comes along, but what about the upsets, the events that blindside us? What about the betrayals and other painful things that others do to us?
If those are gifts too, then seeking the will of God becomes a great challenge. Most of us would rather fret, get angry, and point fingers. Yet if God supplies all our need, those barbs of life must be considered. What good are they? Do they bring out sin in me that needs to be confessed? Do they help me understand the deep needs of the person who hurt me? Do they show me how deeply I am united with Christ in His suffering?
No one escapes the thorns of life. I’ve lived among the roses, but as wonderful as that it, the thorns are still there. God is showing me that when the barbs dig in, He is with me, sharing my anguish, giving me comfort, but also changing my perspective so I can see He has a good purpose in allowing the hit that I’m taking.
And in it He says, “Don’t fret!” Anger leads to rash actions. Waiting on Him leads to a rich inheritance. While that seems the language of eternal rewards, He also can give a portion of that inheritance right now — by teaching and enabling me to stay calm because I trust Him.
He is near, so I do not need to be anxious about anything. Instead, I can pray about everything, making my requests known to God with thanksgiving. When I do that, He gives a great and mysterious peace that guards my heart. (Philippians 4:6-7)
With that amazing and unexplainable peace, fretting vanishes like a word without a definition. By His grace it becomes possible to be thankful for the thorns, then look beyond them and enjoy the roses.