When you see and experience all that is happening in the world, what do you feel?
War in Ukraine. Political fighting at home. Gun violence. Suffering and death.
What do you feel? Angry? Sad? Disappointed? Hopeless?
Reading the Psalms recently, I found a new word to describe how I often feel when I see the broken state of our world, a word that incorporates all of those others.
Here’s what Psalm 37:1 says: “Do not be agitated by … those who do wrong.”
Agitated. Or: disturbed, unnerved, irritated, unsettled.
I was glad to find a word that so aptly describes how this broken-down world can make us feel. I was also glad that King David, who wrote the Psalm, offers some alternatives to agitation.
“Trust in the Lord and do what is good,” he writes. “Dwell in the land and live securely. Delight in the Lord… Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act… Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him.”
David gives us not one response to counter our agitation, but at least four.
Oh, how we need this reminder, because when we see the madness and the sadness of the world, often brought on by “those who do wrong,” we often wonder where God is, whether He has abandoned us. But David reminds us that God is completely trustworthy. His faithful love, as he writes elsewhere, endures forever.
Part of trusting is that word David uses later in the sentence: “dwell.” Jesus gets at this when he says we should “abide” in Him. It’s the picture of child holding on to his mother or father. Hold on to Jesus; you can trust Him.
Think about this: Do you enjoy being agitated? Does it feel good in your soul? Maybe for a moment it does, but extended agitation feels pretty crummy and is not good for our health. Our bodies tense up, our minds race, our attitudes get sour, our connections with other people break down. So, David says, rather than agitation, find ways to delight in who God is.
Each new day brings new reasons for agitation. But each new day also brings channels of delight from God Himself. Just open your window when you awake and hear the birds or the rustle of the wind. Look around you at the people God has placed in your life. Read the Bible and see all of who God is.
That phrase “take delight in” comes from the Hebrew that means “be pliable” or soften. Agitation breeds hardness, but meditating on the Lord softens us to be the lovely people He has made us to be.
Having trusted God and turned to Him in delight, how often do we get back to agitation as soon as we face the next unexpected bill or illness; as soon as we hear the next depressing headline?
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” the hymn says.
And so David shows us we have to do the work of committing our way to the Lord, of being steadfast in turning from agitation to trust and delight. In a world that seems to reward outrage and agitation, we have to continually commit to being countercultural as we face the brokenness of the world.
I process things out loud, and so this is a difficult one for me. It’s also a difficult one as someone who enjoys engaging with the news on social media.
But we really do need silence. We need fewer hot takes on the latest crisis and more silence. But it’s not a passive silence. David here calls us to a silence that includes waiting with expectation.
What are we to wait for? David gives us at least one answer at the end of this Psalm. In a word: deliverance. “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord,” David writes, “a refuge in a time of distress. The Lord helps and delivers them; He will deliver them from the wicked and will save them because they take refuge in Him.”
All of the Bible is a sweeping story of how God is working to redeem and deliver a world turned upside down by sin. We have to have that eternal perspective, that though the world be broken now, and though evil often appears to be gaining the upper hand, there will be a day when all will be made new and right and whole again.
One of our favorite hymns as a family is “This is My Father’s World.” The last stanza of that song has this great line: “This is my Father’s world: O let me ne’er forget // that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.”
The wrong seems oft so strong these days. But don’t let it agitate you. There is a better way, and I’m grateful that Psalm 37 describes it.