“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:26)
This is the last part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for resisting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or struggling with, “why do good things happen to bad people?” For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into 6 individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading the other sections and this one (linked at the end).
What does it mean to rest in the Lord?
Finally we examine Psalm 37 verse 7:
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him”
Perhaps the most difficult part in Psalm 37, the hardest thing asked of us, is to rest and wait patiently for God…particularly when we’re “fretting” (worked up) about something.
Or maybe that’s just me?? And I think to some extent, the order of these commands in this passage of Psalm 37 is important because they help us build up to this.
You’re working on trusting God and doing good, abiding in Him and consuming His word, finding delight in His commands, entrusting your whole self, life, and worries to Him…and now He says to rest and wait.
The word for “rest” here means to stop, be still, and be silent. God is telling us that in order to succeed, we must turn down both the speed and volume of our lives. That, in order to be attuned to His will and the way He’s working in our lives, we must be better at tuning *out* the world.
Do you sometimes lie in bed with your mind racing, maybe stewing over a co-worker getting credit for something you did, or thinking of something you should have said in response to a criticism? You toss and turn, running over it in your mind, unable to sleep. King David sure seemed to struggle with this, and his advice was to “meditate [on God’s word] within your heart on your bed and be still” (Ps. 4:4). In other words, we must re-orient our focus toward God.
God’s sabbath plays an important role in this idea of resting in the Lord. On the seventh day of every week, He commands us to stop what we’re doing, step back from the frenetic pace of our lives, and place our attention on Him. Our core spiritual tools of prayer, bible study, meditation, and fasting are also geared toward helping us shift our focus away from the noise of the world, and toward God’s voice.
After accomplishing some astounding things in God’s name, the prophet Elijah was having a self-pity party out in the wilderness. He railed at God, as he experienced perhaps his lowest moment physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And God made a point. He battered and wowed Elijah through a strong wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But none of those gave Elijah what he was looking for (I Kings 19:12).
Finally He came to Elijah with a “still, small voice” (NIV says “delicate whisper”). God explained that things weren’t as bad as Elijah feared, and encouraged him with the news that God had been working behind the scenes with thousands of faithful followers (which Elijah had no clue about), preparing them for what was to come.
Despite all God’s miracles and Elijah’s role in accomplishing them, he had temporarily lost his focus on God, taken his “eyes off the prize”…and as a result, he got caught up in the discouragement, isolation, and hopelessness he felt in the world around him.
How often are we like Elijah, fixing our eyes and ears (and our minds and our time) on the circumstances around us, anywhere but on God??
When the world around us gets loud, God speaks in that still, small voice. Can you hear God when He whispers to you? Do you know how to “turn down” the speed and noise—in the world, and in your own mind? Or do you lean into the distractions, filling every spare moment with anything *but* spending time with God?
We should be able to identify when we’re worked up (“fretting”), and consciously work on calming our minds. This requires focus and discipline, yanking on the ”leash” of our thoughts when they run down a well-worn path, refusing to allow ourselves to dwell constantly on whatever is upsetting us.
What’s your first instinct when you’re worked up about something? Is it to go to God and place it in His hands (“roll your burden upon Him”, as we saw in the previous study)? And if so, what comes next?
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10)
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What does it look like to “wait on the Lord”?
So, hopefully we’re working on “turning down” the noise of the world around us and being more attuned when God whispers. How should we then apply the idea of waiting patiently for God?
The word used here for “wait patiently” (chul, H2342), gives us a richer understanding of what’s being asked of us. It can imply many things, but in this case we should think of it as being firm and strong, enduring and prospering.