Independence Day. I see in the microscope – many images of red, white, blue. Fireworks, apple pie, picnics. Hot southern summer days. In the “macroscope,” not so much…
Psalm 37 inspired my blog awhile ago because of God’s promises there when things are not vivid red, white, or blue, apple pie-like or picnic-like. Which is most of the time. “Fret not” became an image of real faith for me, when I needed a deeper and wider place to find footing in Christ. “Fretting not” became not a temporary coping skill, but rather a lifelong disposition to be cultivated through faith in Jesus Christ. How does this disposition form?
I see that “fretting not” has come through a horrendously crushing road of tests and opportunities sent by God to strengthen my faith. In this life so far, two “crushings” in particular have challenged my core. My “go to” was far worse than mere fretting. It was more like a huge infusion of adrenal-laden anxiety that never slept. What I learned from the panic associated with the first crushing helped me to breathe during the second crushing. That epidemic anxiety disrupted my life because I could no longer engineer or manipulate my white-picket-fence facade of circumstances…
Psalm 37:1-6 (Message version) says “Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked. In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun. Get insurance with God and do a good deed, settle down and stick to your last. Open up before God, keep nothing back; He’ll do whatever needs to be done: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day and stamp you with approval at high noon.”
I’m wiser now. In Psalm 37, “fret not” is given as an imperative, not a suggestion. Probably because God can be fully trusted. Days of unhappiness, sadness, anger, humiliation, disappointment, physical pain, and emotional upset do not need to be further tormented by fretting. Because I can trust in God and His purposes and control. Romans 8:28 is a scripture reference tattooed to my ankle for the last ten years as a reminder. Because it sings its message in my heart.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” The good. Not the happiness. What? A radical truth. The echo: my good, not my happiness… For me, Independence Day was the day I understood Romans 8:28 and realized that, although my happiness is not God’s purpose in my life, that He causes all things, even misery, to work out for my eternal good. He wants me to be holy.
Torturous circumstances simply do not change the truth of Romans 8:28. A root canal gone south, screaming kids in the back of the car, a disastrous family gathering, a door slammed in anger, a pot of creamy soup spilled on the inside of the refrigerator and all down on the floor, traffic jams on I-64, strife in the workplace, estrangement from former friends…
I don’t read Oswald Chambers (MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST) every day, but I did read it yesterday (the entry for July 4th). Is it any surprise that Oswald’s take on Psalm 37 is about the trouble with fretting? Is it any surprise that it is precisely about being fully dependent on God as a lifelong disposition? Chambers says “fussing always ends in sin.” He is SO right. Fussing becomes all about me and my will. How I want to engineer my circumstances. How I don’t deserve a certain outcome. How I have done everything right and should be rewarded. Oh, how sick my soul becomes with this thinking. I end up completely doubting that God has any power and authority over what goes on in my life.
Chambers says (in THE LOVE OF GOD), “It is misleading to imagine that we are developed in spite of our circumstances, we are developed because of them. It is mastery in circumstances that is needed, not mastery over them.”
Everything about the gospel turns upside-down what we think we know. My greatest freedom is not equivalent to independence. My greatest freedom is found in complete dependence on the substitutionary sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf and the life He wants to live through me through faith.