Are You Fretting Over Something?

October 1, 2020
Bruce Buchanan

Welcome to the Berean Bible Church website, and my “pastor’s blog.”  When you clicked on the link to this page I do not know if you had dreams dancing in your heart, or butterflies flitting in your stomach, or if weights were pressing you to the ground.  But since we are meeting here today I want to share with you an experience I had with God which has significantly impacted my life.

Some people are dreamers and planners.  Some take one day at a time, and deal with whatever comes up.  Some are list-makers.  I am a list-maker.  And my lists of things that I need to do and my awareness of what is on the horizon have sometimes caused me to fret – a lot!

Two years ago I was feeling very overwhelmed with pressures, demands, and lists of what I had to do.  I began to re-read John Piper’s book, Desiring God.  As I read, I was challenged by the passages in Psalms which spoke of delighting in, or finding joy in God (e.g. Psalm 16:11; 43:4, cf. Desiring God, p. 23), or New Testament commands to “rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1; 4:4).  I was convicted that “I” did not find my joy in God.  Instead, I felt more of a burden of being overwhelmed by the stuff of my life.

The week before, I had taught a Bible lesson on 1John 2:15-17, and had asked the question, “How do you NOT love the world, and the things in it?”  The passage reads:

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15–17, NASB)

I asked this question because when one is told to not “think” about something, then that is what often occupies his/her mind.  Similarly, in trying NOT to love the world, and the things in it, one can end up concentrating on that which he/she is forbidden to love – which is not a good place to be.

I was not “loving” the things of the world, but I was certainly overwhelmed by them and the pressure which I felt they were exerting on me.  These pressures, demands, and uncertainties were on a screen so large that I couldn’t see anything else above, around, or through them. They filled my field of vision.  I knew that I was to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), but those pressures, demands and uncertainties filled all my vision.  I had a hard time with the command in Psalm 37:4, to “delight myself in the Lord,” because I really didn’t know how.  At that time God graciously brought me to realize that I needed to reorder my heart, and delighting myself in Him was where I needed to start.

In this post I will share with you two steps that I needed to take to begin to delight in God.  The first was that whereas I was overwhelmed by my anxieties, pressures and concerns, I needed to focus on Him.

The Lord brought my attention to Psalm 37: 1 which commanded me not to “fret” (also in vv. 7, 8).  Fretting is something that I am very good at.  I can be consumed with fretting over little things almost as well as I can be consumed with fretting over big things, and while I wasn’t personally overwhelmed by “evildoers,” nor “envious toward wrongdoers,” I was fretting over things that were under God’s purview, and subject to his power to change or control (cf. Romans 8:28).   The Psalmist described the outcome for the wicked in other verses of the Psalm (1b-2, 9-10, 14-15, 20, 35-36, 38), making the point that those who were causing the fretting would be “undone.”  I was encouraged to consider that if God would do that with the literal adversaries of David, God could handle the things that were causing me to fret – my “metaphorical” adversaries.

Besides being told that I should not fret, God called my attention to the commands to trust in Him (vv. 3, 5), and to rest and wait patiently on Him (v. 7).  The heart condition which these commands require is very different from one beset by “fretting.” And when coupled with the command to “delight” myself in the Lord (v. 4), I was brought to realize that my heart and my way of thinking about the stuff of life needed reordering.  The rest of Psalm 37 nourished my soul and encouraged me in a very positive way toward wanting my heart to be reordered according to a perspective that puts God at the center, and such that all of life revolves around Him.  And as He is at the center, all of life is to be interpreted in light of Him, His glory, and His will.  Suddenly, my anxiety about those pressures, demands and uncertainties began to dissolve – and I found myself “delighting in Him.”

The Lord brought other passages to mind, specifically, the experience of the Children of Israel at Kadesh (Numbers 13 and 14), and Peter when he saw Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14). In the first example, when ten of the spies saw the inhabitants of the land strong and living securely in fortified cities (13:28-29, 31-33), they fretted and discouraged the people from going forward.  Conversely, Joshua and Caleb recognized that with the Lord’s presence, they would be able to succeed, and conquer the land (14:7-9).  Secondly, when Peter’s eyes were on the Lord, he succeeded in walking to the Lord, but when he turned his gaze to the storm, he began to sink (Matthew 14:29-30).  The difference in both cases was looking at, and fretting over the difficulty – versus trusting in God.  The Lord convicted me of doing the same.

The second step was to realize that delighting in Him had to include relational connection as well.  The poem of the young Shulamite Bride and her Bridegroom delighting in one another is one of Scripture’s most eloquent examples of one party “delighting” in another.  Delighting includes a longing and desire to be with the object of one’s delight (cf. Song 1:1-4, 3:1-4).  As the Psalmist spoke of delighting in the Lord (Psalm 37:4) in the context of the Lord providing respite from the surrounding adversaries, one finds a picture of peace and security for the one delighting in the Lord.  From such a perspective it is not hard to understand how David could write his beloved Psalm 23.

1      The LORD is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

2      He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside quiet waters.

3      He restores my soul;

He guides me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

4      Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5      You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil;

My cup overflows.

6      Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NASB)

And it is not difficult to understand David penning these words in Psalm 27:1-6:

1      The LORD is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the defense of my life;

Whom shall I dread?

2      When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,

My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.

3      Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;

Though war arise against me,

In spite of this I shall be confident.

4      One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,

To behold the beauty of the LORD

And to meditate in His temple.

5      For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;

He will lift me up on a rock.

6      And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,

And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.  (NASB)

When I was at a time in my life when I was fretting, the Lord used these passages to show me that I needed to “reorder” my heart.  Delighting in Him was the first step.  I pray that the Lord will use these passages to help you “reorder” your heart if you have been beset by fretting.

Bruce Buchanan

After completing undergraduate and seminary training (Bob Jones University, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, and later, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), the Lord opened the door for me to minister at Berean Bible Church in Cortland, New York. I pray that God will use me, however He sees fit, to lead and equip the believers He has called together to form Berean Bible Church.