“Do Not Fret…”

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” – Psalm 37:8

We do a lot of “fretting” in the Western world. Feelings of impatience, anxiety, and worry are not only common, but are in some ways even considered positive. These feelings are fuel for the efficiency we value so highly. But when living in Zimbabwe in the summer of 2012, I found a better way.

I stayed in the city of Mutare with a host family. Both husband and wife had attended seminary, and Gift, the husband, served a church downtown. During my first week with Gift, I saw a lot of Mutare as we spent several hours driving around town to help the district superintendent. A shipping container with all kinds of donations to the district was scheduled to be delivered to the district women’s hostel, but after several tries, the truck could not fit through the gate. We then tried to have it dropped off in the driveway of the district parsonage, but there we also found the gate to be too narrow. After more than 2 hours of following this truck around, the delivery still had not been made. Finally, the district superintendent arranged for it to be delivered to St. Peter’s United Methodist Church on the other side of town, but it could not stay there for unloading later. It had to be unloaded immediately. So they had to call together the members of that church to help unload.

To me, the most surprising aspect of the situation was how calm and easygoing everyone involved was. I never saw anyone show frustration or anger – not even the driver, who I assume was not expecting his delivery to take so long. On the contrary, everyone involved kept laughing about the situation instead of getting upset.

This never would have happened in the United States. It would only take a few minutes for someone to start pointing fingers to lay blame, and/or complain about how everything is taking too long because he had somewhere else to be. I’m not the type to outwardly display impatience, but I can tell you that day tested me. Internally I was frustrated at the lack of foresight and efficiency, and it took all my willpower to keep my “fretting” from showing.

But where does all our “fretting” get us? It only leaves us angry and frustrated over things we cannot control. I wonder if we spend so much time getting impatient and anxious in our lives that we fail to find the humor in gates that are 6 inches too narrow for a truck, or forget to be grateful for donations being given and the drivers who deliver them patiently.

Today, commit to abandon fretting in your life. After all, as the Psalmist says, it only leads to evil.

— Pastor Erik