The singing King of Israel tells us three times in the 37th Psalm, “Do not fret.” He’s not suggesting we shouldn’t play the guitar—he’s talking about an attitude of the heart and mind.
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong … do not fret when men succeed in their ways … do not fret—it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:1, 7, 8 NIV).
That is exactly the kind of teaching I need: clearly repetitious.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word fret: to cause to suffer emotional strain: VEX. The Hebrew language defines the word with more sensory detail: to glow or grow warm; to blaze up, burn.
The dictionary definition summons images of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. The Hebrew version sounds more like me.
The “frets” of this Psalm crystalized for me one day when I went openly to the Lord and confessed my sin. My journal entry that morning read, “I have three bed fellows: fear, resentment, and envy.”
The confession had a cleansing effect, as if the Lord had said to me, “Come clean.” When I did, release began.
Further journal entries examined the objects of my fear, resentment and envy, and as I wrote—a process akin to prayer for me—the recorded words of Jesus spoke in my heart:
“The truth will set you free.”
Only then did I see that the ancient acrostic poem in Psalm 37 had become an acrostic for me: Fear, Resentment, Envy—the first three letters of the word fret. So where was the T?
“Torment” was a possibility, considering the way I felt. But I found what I was looking for in the book of Job, the last two verses of the third chapter:
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
That was the word—turmoil. Turmoil and peace cannot coexist in one’s spirit. Turmoil and quietness do not walk hand in hand. Turmoil does not allude to the restful presence of God.
Turmoil roiled in my heart.
If you know what it’s like to heave on the waves of turmoil, join me over the next several weeks and dig deeper into what it means to FRET—and what it doesn’t mean.