Retiring the Fretter

Dear Friends:

This is the second in a series of messages on worry and fretting.

Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper
in their way,
over those who carry our evil devices.
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Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.
Do not fret–it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord
shall inherit the land.
(Ps 37:7-8)

Sooner and later, the fretter is going to run out of strength and time. Our finite resources of the flesh are never enough to satisfy the demands of a hungry heart that was made as an eternal dwelling place for our infinite God. “The wicked shall be cut-off,” David wrote. Time and life will end with the fretter’s anxious thoughts and efforts gone for nought unable to lengthen our reach for eternity by even one inch, according to Jesus (Matt 6:27).

So how does a fretter retire? What does an unemployed fretter do? The Lord does not leave us groping for an answer.

Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for him. . .
those who wait for the Lord
shall inherit the land.
(Ps 37:7a-8b)

What we do is wait, the very action that is counter-intuitive to a fretter. The Lord speaks of “inheritance” which tells us that there is a future and a hope and the “land” which tells us that our inheritance will be spacious.  But it is not the gift that we are waiting for. It is the Lord himself.  His presence is everything.

The key to waiting is patience–the deferral of our shallow aspirations for view lots, granite counter tops and state-of-the-art security systems when our Lord wants to give us worlds and galaxies. Patience is a focused, enduring trust that God will prevail for us.

Patience is not something that we can manufacture for ourselves. Neither is it something that we can afford to purchase. Patience is a gift, the fruit of the of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). The grace of God is the total package. He informs and empowers our waiting even as our waiting is for him. He calls us to communion in a relationship that is restful and easy in its confident love. The old South African preacher Andrew Murray explained it well.

All the exercises of the spiritual life–our reading and our praying, our willing and doing–have their own great value. But they can go no further than this, that they just point the way and prepare us in humility to look to and depend on God himself, and in patience to wait for His time and mercy. The waiting is to teach us our absolute dependence on God’s mighty working, and to make us in perfect patience place ourselves at his disposal. They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land: the promised land and its blessing. The heirs must wait; they can afford to wait. . .
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It is resting in the Lord, in His will, His promise, His faithfulness, and His love, that makes patience easy. And resting in Him means nothing but being silent to Him, still before Him. Having our thoughts and wishes, our fears and hopes, hushed into calm and quiet by that great peace of God which passes all understanding. That peace keeps the heart and mind when we are anxious for anything, because we have made our request known to Him. The rest, the stillness, the patient waiting–all find their strength and joy in God himself.
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The need for patience, and the reasonableness and the blessedness of patience will be opened up to the waiting soul. Our patience will be seen to be the counterpart of God’s patience. He longs to bless us far more than we can desire it. But as the farmer has great patience till the fruit is ripe, so God accommodates himself to our slowness and bears with us. Let us remember this and wait patiently. Of each promise and every answer to prayer the statement is true: “I the Lord will hasten it in its time.”
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“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.” Yes, for  Him. Seek not only the help or the gift, seek Him; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him. This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on His throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands. It lets God be God. If your waiting is for some special request, wait patiently. If your waiting is more the exercise of the spiritual life seeking to know and have more of God, wait patiently. Whether it is in the shorter specific periods of waiting or the continuous habits of the soul, rest in the Lord, be still before the Lord, and wait patiently. “They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land” (Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Secret of Waiting on God [Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publ., 1986], 56-57).

It all seems so nice, so possible to wait patiently for the Lord, reading the words on the page, but we know that our anxious thoughts have led us astray before and will do it again. How can we repent from the sin of worry. Oswald Chambers suggests a way if you and I have the will to follow it. “Have you been propping up that foolish soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God to handle? Set all your opinions and speculations aside and ‘abide under the shadow of the Almighty’ (Psalm 91:1). Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about whatever concerns you” (My Utmost for His Highest, July 4).

Too simple? True repentance always requires ruthless simplicity. You change direction and leave everything behind when you repent or you are going to die. “Remember Lot’s wife” warned Jesus (Luke 17:32).

Fretting is an addictive sin and it is hard to quit. We require redemption from enslavement to our fretfulness as with every other sin. It is a deceptive pride to think that to worry is to love. What exposes that falsehood is this truth: “Love does not insist on its own way. . . It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:5). True love expresses itself in trust and freedom, not anxious attempts to control the result.

I am not known as a fretter, but I am human and there isn’t a day that goes by that fear does not creep into my heart. I have searched in vain over my lifetime for some formula, some technique that will eliminate worry. The only thing I know to do is accept that the Lord loves me and holds my life in his hands. I pray in faith, “Lord, who reigns in grace and truth, take over, please. Empty me of my pride and fears and clear the debris of my selfishness9 out of the way. Leave nothing of me to be seen or heard. Let there be only You and none of me  to your Glory. Yes!”

Many times I have prayed this prayer, often shortened to “Lord, let it be all you and none of me”–before speaking; before court hearings; before facing anger and criticism; before asking for forgiveness; before worship; in the midst of a boring day when self-pity and carelessness tempt me; after soul-bruising confrontations that pump me full of adrenaline and pompous ego;  and after the staining residue of a shameful loss of temper. I have learned this prayer bit by bit, in halting, pleading whispers of my desperate heart uttered in honest ,”nothing-left-to-lose” faith. I can report that the Father hears and answers that prayer.

“Do not fret” is not a suggestion or a guideline. It is the irrevocable command of the Most High God who enables me to fulfill it time and again by his grace. To not heed that command is to place my importance before his.

The day that I accepted that I was loved by my Father in heaven who would not let me go was the very day that I began to give up fretting. I can tell you that it gets easier over time if you wait and rest in the Lord who would rather have your trust than even your love. Many a fretter would profess a love for the Lord even as he or she denies him through worry. Trust is the ultimate worship. Jesus pleads with us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).

The responsibility and the power to make all things turn out well rests upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ who is named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority actually grows all the time so there is no end to his peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).  Because peace is his gift it is important to put down our fretwork and open our hands, our hearts and our minds to him and receive his presence “For he is our peace. . . .” (Eph 2:14a).

Even if belief comes hard to you and fretting still grips you, don’t despair. Just pray “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). It is a prayer that confesses our struggle and weakness, yet acknowledges no exception nor excuse for fretting. It is a prayer that Christ will hear and answer with healing grace. Let it be your prayer and his answer.

Next week, I will write about the refocus that makes waiting possible for us.

Under the mercy of Christ,

Kent

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