Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices (Psalm 37:3, 7, ESV)!
Rest is such an elusive thing. Our bodies and souls desperately need rest, which is why God gave us command #4: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). As our Designer, God knows how much we need to rest, and He even modeled it for us on the seventh day of Creation. But some of us act allergic to rest. We can hardly manage to stop working and to sit still, and even when our bodies are still, our minds and souls are still frenzied. We need rest.
Psalm 37 is likely the main passage in Scripture that describes rest. David wrote this psalm, but it’s unique. Almost everything David wrote was addressed to God—conversations with God, thoughts about God, worship of God. Psalm 37, however, is written to God’s people. This psalm is for us.
The theme of Psalm 37 is trusting God during a difficult season of perceived injustice. Perceived is a qualifier, because in the end, nothing will remain unjust. God will balance the books of justice. But until then, we have to trust God.
“Fret not,” David tells us repeatedly in this psalm. “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers” (Psalm 37:1)! The word fret literally means don’t get heated up. Don’t kindle yourself. Don’t get worked up about the person who seems to go unpunished and succeeds by doing wrong. We can’t help but think, Look how she acts! Look how he cheats and steals! Look how she slanders and betrays!
Rather than fret—rest. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (37:7a). So what does it mean to be still and rest in the Lord? It means to be at peace without resolution. You may not be able to fix your problems anytime soon, and you can’t put your life on hold. Without tidy solutions, during a seemingly unending season of turmoil, you can be at peace and rest in the Lord.
If you read through the rest of Psalm 37, you could write beside almost every verse one of two words: trust or wait. For example:
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil” (37:8). Trust.
“For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land” (37:9). Wait.
In your time with the Lord this week, you could go through the whole psalm and write these words, trust and wait, right in your Bible. It’s the refrain of this psalm: trust and wait, trust and wait, trust and wait.
Trusting is leaning on God. Specifically, during a season of injustice, trusting means confidently expecting that at the right time, God will act, and you will have a front row seat to your own vindication (see Psalm 23:5, 27:13).
Waiting is accepting God’s timing, knowing that you have to go through this season of hardship. You have to stay in this difficult place and feel this pain. You can’t go around trials, only through them.
Sometimes we don’t experience rest in life because we’re trusting but not waiting, or waiting but not trusting. Trusting without waiting is striving. Do everything you can do, and then trust that God will come through. Waiting without trusting is worrying. Yet God reminds us, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6a). Trusting and waiting have to go together. Combine them, and you’ll have peace without resolution. You’ll have rest.
• In your life, what does it look like when you trust but don’t wait? What does it look like when you wait but don’t trust?
• In what hardship in your life do you need to experience God’s peace and rest?
Lord God, I trust You, and I’m going to wait for Your timing. I need peace without resolution. The end isn’t in sight, God, and I need rest during this season of hardship. My resources aren’t sufficient, my wisdom can’t plot a way out, and my ingenuity can’t remove the pressure. But You know all about that. You saw it coming, chose to allow it, and promise to use it for my good. I want my thoughts to reflect a greater confidence in You. Forgive me for the times I’ve strived to do too much, and forgive me for the times I’ve worried and doubted You. Teach me to trust and wait. You know when, God. I choose to trust You and wait for You to act. Please give me rest and peace, in the name of Jesus, “for he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14a), amen.
— James MacDonald
For more from James MacDonald and the “Walk in the Word” Bible teaching ministry, visit WalkInTheWord.com