Do you ever find a particular Scripture worming its way into your heart? Or perhaps it’s a subtle tap-tap-tap. Maybe, as in my husband’s case, it’s a giant brick hitting you over the head. No matter, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us have at least one particular verse or portion of a verse that really speaks to us – a word of encouragement or consolation, a bit of clarity, or renewed purpose and strength.
For me, lately at least, that particular Scripture has been Psalms 37:5-11. In pondering why this Psalm keeps coming to me in different circumstances and through different means, I realized that each verse speaks to nearly every aspect of my life.
In the waiting, there is ample opportunity for me to trust God, yet far too often I become anxious and fearful instead. I get angry. I get frustrated. I become exasperated that my prayers and questions are met with silence, time and again. But above all else, I am weary.
Somehow the Psalms have a way of reaching us right where we are, regardless of time or era in which we live. As inspired Scripture, we know that God is speaking a universal message, but also a personal one. And there is nothing more comforting than to realize that God is, in fact, speaking to us by name.
5 – Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act.
I like to think that everything falls into place nicely once I, step by step, day by day, discern and act upon God’s will. But the reality is usually the opposite: I am met with incessant frustrations, setbacks, and obstacles. And in the midst of each, my tendency is to retreat into a state of paralyzing fear.
This verse reminds us that what is required above all, each day, is to be faithful to God in our prayers and by staying close to the Sacraments. In that faithful walk, we must learn to trust God in the mysteries and unknowns that we all face. Eventually, God will respond. Our responsibility is to relinquish control by believing with confidence that God is faithful to us always.
6 – And make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like noonday.
Righteousness has gotten a terrible reputation because of hypocritical Christians, including the Pharisees and scribes from Scripture. Most of the time, we equate righteousness with haughtiness, but basically it means living out moral truth on a daily basis. Isn’t it a beautiful metaphor to imagine living truth and working for justice as the dawn of a new day?
Dawn signifies new beginnings, fresh starts, and starting over. When we wake up each morning and remember that, regardless of how we messed up the day before, we can start anew and make our lives reflect God’s light like a lovely dawn that awakens our day.
7 – Be still before the Lord; wait for him. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers.
Do you ever feel envious when others seem to be making strides toward success, but you feel stagnant? I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this. As a writer, I know plenty of other successful writers who have far surpassed the work I am doing, and I tend to get discouraged by their accomplishments.
But this verse encourages us to wait for God’s perfect timing. It’s one of the most difficult things to do, because the longer we wait, the more time the enemy has to convince us that nothing will happen. We may linger in doubt, but the Psalmist reminds us to relish our time of quiet waiting. If we do, we will find that, when God moves us forward, we will be grateful for the break.
8 – Refrain from anger; abandon wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.
One of my main vices is anger. I am ashamed of this truth, but I battle anger on a daily basis. At times, it has grown to all-out rage, and I end up screaming like a fish wife at my husband and girls.
Anger can be productive. In and of itself, anger is not a sin. Rather, it’s the expression of our anger that can be cause for sin, and that’s where my struggle lies. Instead of quelling my anger by acknowledging its rise in my heart, I usually allow it to fester until it explodes. And then I spend the rest of my day irritated and restless.
But we can choose to constructively channel our anger before it ends up hurting others. There are countless ways to do this, but the point is that we stop it before it escalates into wrath.
9 – Those who do evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the earth.
Here’s that word ‘wait’ again. How many of us do not want to wait? It may or may not be a matter of impatience, but waiting connotes a sort of nothingness, a halt to our plans, and that is why we become restless in times of waiting.
Waiting can bear incredible spiritual fruit if we recognize it as full of opportunity. God presents us with periods of hiatus so that we may grow in some particular virtue. Oftentimes, He uses times of waiting to refine or prepare us for what lies ahead in our missional work. Again, we must trust that God is, indeed, moving even and especially when we are not.
10 – Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.
When I was a child, I was puzzled as to why worldlings seemed to enjoy incredible blessings in this life, while those who were consciously striving for Heaven received an abundance of trials and sufferings. My parents’ response was that all people will receive justice, whether in this life or in the afterlife.
It’s easy to get caught up in the horrific world events that make headlines these days. I have a few on my heart as I type this, especially about the child euthanasia in Belgium and recent terrorist attack in New York City. Evil has a tendency to shock us and lead us to a place of despair, as we hear very little – if anything – of hope and miracles in the secular media. While the temptation may be to retreat into our own little shells, we are called to courageous faith now more than ever.
11 – But the poor will inherit the earth, will delight in great prosperity.
With a hint of the Beatitudes here, we are reminded that poverty of spirit should be our ultimate aim. Evangelical poverty involves first a stripping of self – and a sometimes violent one at that – until we see the reality of our weaknesses and form the habit of total dependence on God’s providence.
We don’t have to be economically destitute in order to arrive at this poverty of spirit. In fact, if we truly desire sanctity, we would do well to pray for the gift of humility that often accompanies poverty of spirit. In time, we will see that true prosperity is a reflection of “storing up treasures in Heaven.”