When the world around us seems out of control, it's easy to become discouraged, angry, depressed, and even fearful.
When evil, injustice, scandals, unrest, and tragedies dominate the news, cynicism is easy to cultivate. Why? We get bitter and our hearts harden when we lose hope in what's right and true and good.
But there are ways to overcome it all.
Don't be overcome
If we don't want to be overcome by the snarling darkness of this world, we need to develop attitudes and actions to contend with it.
One thing is certain—as followers of Jesus, we don't need to be overcome with worry or secretly admire those who seem to get away with everything.
In a previous post, I looked at the first nine verses of Psalm 37 and pointed out five ways to overcome what we cannot control. (Psalm 37:1-9). This is a follow-up post to see how these five ways can help us to overcome it all.
5 Ways to overcome what we can't control (from Psalm 37)
1– Trust in the Lord and do good (verse 3)– the opposite of fretting and envy
The initial way to not be overcome with worry and envy is to trust. Any form of trust is a risk of sorts, but the risk is reduced by the trustworthiness of whoever (or wherever) we're putting our trust.
The Lord is trustworthy beyond what we can comprehend, so it boils down to our own willingness to trust Him. Trusting in the Lord isn't a choice between one thing or another, it's based on relationship.
It's a confidence that God is greater than whatever threatens to overwhelm us. This is expanded on further in the psalm (Psalm 37:10-15; 18-22). It's a confidence that God will honor our trust in Him (Heb 11:6).
[bctt tweet="Our confidence in God needs to be greater than whatever threatens to overwhelm us" username="tkbeyond"]
2– Delight yourself in the Lord (verse 4)– having right priorities
As a young believer, I remember hearing the verse, Delight yourself in the Lord, and He'll give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4), as if it was a guarantee the Lord would give you whatever your heart desired. But there's more to it than that.
It's tied to trusting in the Lord (#1 above). The focus needs to be on delighting in the Lord, not what we want or desire. When our highest priority is the Lord Himself, our priorities are in right order and he will honor that.
[bctt tweet="When God transforms our hearts, the desires of our heart will change" username="tkbeyond"]
When this is true it transforms our heart and what we desire—our selfish nature is no longer the basis for the desires of our heart. This brings contentment into our relationship with the Lord. This is seen in other verses of this psalm (Psalm 27:16-19; 23-26).
3– Commit your way to the Lord– the Lord's promised care
Many believers have the sense that once they've given their heart to Jesus no further commitment is needed. In one way this is true. Once a decision is made to follow Jesus, just as with a marriage vow, a person doesn't need to do it over and over again.
But it's not a one and done type of commitment. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks of the need to affirm this commitment daily (Luke 9:23). How can it be both?
The battle of not going with the cultural flow of the world around us is constant. It doesn't go away once we make a decision to follow Jesus. It requires a continuing surrender of our will and ways to the Lord.
I learned this as a young believer and Proverbs 3:5-6 became an anchor of truth for me when I dealt with worry, frustration, and envy of others.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
[bctt tweet="Trust in the Lord with all your heart—In all your ways acknowledge him" username="tkbeyond"]
4– Be still and wait (verse 7)– the power of disconnecting
This may seem like a passive action or no action at all, but it's a powerful way to connect with God. This is especially true in our digital age where people wander around in their own world with headsets and headphones or chasing imaginary creatures on their smartphone.
If we want to connect with God, we need to be willing to disconnect from the world around us, including people. This is nothing new and the idea of being present or mindful has once again become vogue in American culture.
[bctt tweet="To connect with God, we need to be willing to disconnect from the world around us" username="tkbeyond"]
The question for many is how? How can we digitally, emotionally, and physically unplug for a while? You'll need to find your own way to do this.
One way I do this is to get up early in the morning (while it's still dark) for a less-distracted time with God. Another thing that helps me is riding my bike on the beach, or fully engaging in worship.
As I said, you'll have to sort out how you can do this, and it requires some discipline and commitment.
5– Refrain...forsake...fret not (verse 8)– breaking the cycle
A friend of mine showed me an illustration and explanation of the Cycle of Rage that's relevant here. A choice needs to be made to break out of the cycle of reacting with anger or fretting when things seem out of control (Psalm 37:8).
This is a choice to not be controlled by our circumstances or feelings. How? This brings us full circle to the beginning of our ways to overcome it all.
When you begin to roll down the hill of cynicism and despair, it's time to put the brakes on!
[bctt tweet="If you're rolling down the hill of cynicism and despair, put the brakes on!" username="tkbeyond"]
Choosing God's kingdom over this world's dominion
What's described in these five ways to overcome is not a list of disciplines to apply, but a way of life in the Kingdom of God. This is seen in the repetition about inheriting the land (Psalm 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34). For the Jews, this spoke of God's kingdom on earth.
But the kingdom of God is not restricted to a dominion upon earth, it encompasses all those who trust in the Lord in a personal way. Jesus refers to this in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:5), and Paul speaks of this in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 4:13; 14:17).
The world around us may continue to darken, but it doesn't have to run over us like a truck.
[bctt tweet="The world around us may continue to darken, but it doesn't have to control our life" username="tkbeyond"]
Our life may not go as we expect, but when we choose to trust in the Lord, committing our ways to Him, we have the assurance of inheriting a better life than we could make for ourselves as co-heirs with Jesus (Gal 3:29; Eph 3:6).
What will you choose today?