“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Ps. 56:3)
This is the second part in a study on how the first few verses of Psalm 37 give us a five-part prescription for combatting the envy and anxiety that come from comparing ourselves to other people or asking, “why do good things happen to bad people?” For ease of reading we’ve split this long study into individual parts, so I recommend starting with the intro to Psalm 37 (which lays the groundwork), then reading this and the subsequent sections (linked at the end).
What does Ps. 37:3 mean?
After David tells us not to get worked up when we see bad people get what we feel we deserve, his first instruction is to “trust in the Lord and do good” (Ps. 37:3).
What does it mean to trust God?
The word used here for “trust” means to be confident, secure, or “to hie for refuge” (which makes me laugh).
Ye Olde English aside, that last bit really helps flesh out something we can take away from this…like in Psalm 91 where it speaks of God as “my refuge and fortress”. He should be what I look to for protection, and who I run to in times of trouble (like peasants running toward the castle walls when the barbarians attacked).
In other words, with my trust placed in God, I am certain of my protection and deliverance. The word is used many times in the Old Testament, including dozens in the Psalms alone. And so I have to ask myself, what makes me feel safe and secure? How certain do you feel about things in your life right now?
Where is your center of gravity, the thing your world revolves around? Is it in your 401k, or your ability to defend yourself (Ps. 49:6, 44:6)? Is it in your own judgment, your career, the government, or even your family and friends (Prov. 28:26, Ps. 146:3, Ps. 41:9)?
What is your confidence in? What is the one thing that, if it became shaky, would rock the foundations of your world? If you don’t know the answer to that, it might be wise to take some time to reflect on it *before* you’re in a situation where you find out in real time and regret the answer.
“And do good”: The need for action
But we shouldn’t forget the rest of the phrase in Ps. 37:3. We’re told to trust in the Lord and do good. As with many of God’s commands, this isn’t only a mind exercise, but rather mind AND body. Heart and action.
The beginning of Psalm 37 verse 3 also makes very clear that trusting in God doesn’t involve just putting things in God’s hands and then abdicating responsibility for everything and sitting on our hands.
We should be striving to follow God’s instructions, which Jesus summed up as “love God with all your might, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40, paraphrase). Both of those involve not only feelings and intentions, but taking action.
David’s statement tells us that we must put our entire faith and confidence in God, trust that He has a plan and will accomplish His purpose…and in the meantime, our job is to go on about our lives and do good, do what we can.
But what does it mean to “do good” in our daily lives? The word translated “good” and the overall command are both very broad and all-encompassing. Among other things, “good” can mean beneficial, kind, benevolent, giving pleasure or happiness, and righteous or moral piety.
If you apply that to your life, where are you “doing good”? How do others experience you? Is your presence beneficial to others, bringing them pleasure? Not just your close friends and family, but co-workers, neighbors, strangers you interact with at the grocery store.
Are your actions in-line with what God commands, showing what it means to follow God’s way? When people see you speak and act, do they see underlying kindness and outward concern?
This extends to how we think about God’s role in our daily lives as well. For instance, the prophet Nehemiah modeled this when the Israelites needed protection from attackers while rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, saying, “We prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Neh. 4:9, NIV). Faith with action.
This idea of putting our complete trust in God’s plan and purpose WHILE also daily taking action is a difficult balance to strike, and something we should constantly be examining in our lives. What should this really look like?
Working to apply “trust in God & do good” in our lives
I try to put myself in God’s shoes and look at my daily life…what would He want me to be focusing on, spending time on, talking to Him about? Am I trying to understand His will and actively work toward it (“Thy will be done”)? Am I looking around at others to see what they need or what they’re struggling with, and then trying to serve their needs?
Today this could look like, “I pray daily asking God to help me get a better job, and I make sure I apply for at least one job a day”. Or “I pray God heals the woman in our congregation who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and I brought her a couple meals to help make things easier.”
It sounds easy enough, and sometimes it is at first. But it’s extremely challenging in the long-haul, as we try to trust in God to look out for us and our loved ones, but constantly feel like we’re facing trials and challenges while “bad” people skate through life trouble-free.
But we’re reminded that it’s not about them, it’s about us. The apostle Paul gives us both an encouragement and a warning to keep our focus, saying, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). IF.
Now that we’ve examined the first part of Ps. 37:3, let’s look at the second half of the verse…”dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”
Here are the remaining studies:
- Part 1: An Intro & Summary of the Message in Psalm 37 – read first!
- Part 3: Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness (Ps. 37:3)
- Part 4: Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4)
- Part 5: Commit your way to the Lord…and He shall bring it to pass (Ps. 37:5)
- Part 6: Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7)