By Susan K. Smith,
The writer of the 37th Psalm tells us not to fret.
I learned this psalm as it appears in the King James Version of the Bible: Fret not thyself because of evildoers; neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb.
The Message Bible says “Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked. In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.”
In spite of the directive not to, we too often do fret about the evildoers in our lives and the more we fret, the more we give our power away. We fret even as they rejoice because they can see the effect they are having on us.
Leading up to this election day, some decided to fight back and have voted or will vote to send a message to those whom they consider to be “evildoers” that they are not afraid or intimidated. As policies have been put in place, judges confirmed for the United States Supreme Court, and hateful rhetoric has flourished, some decided that they could not and would not sit and weep and fret. As madmen have gone into places of worship or into public spaces using automatic weapons to mow human beings down, some have decided, even as they fretted, to fight.
But there are others who have fallen into a tornadic wind which destroys life and the desire to have life, in spite of the presence of evil. They are fretting. They have not challenged evil and will not; they have not voted and will not. They have given their power to the very forces which seek to destroy them.
Evil will never vanish. There is a reason why we know well the words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Evil seeks to control us and then destroy us. It is a part of life. We face evil daily and are forced into the battles evil provokes. Yet, the psalmist says, “we fear no evil,” and that is because we choose to fight and not fret.
Refusing to fret is difficult; the command itself seems implausible and perhaps unfair. Howard Thurman says that the disinherited have a peculiar burden which they always carry – and that is deception. The disinherited fret because over and over they have been deceived, the presence of God notwithstanding. For those who wage evil, the mindset or the suffering of those on the receiving end of their actions is of no concern. Politicians do not see the pain of those who are hungry or those who live in their cars in spite of working two jobs because they cannot afford housing. They do not writhe in pain in their homes from brutal cancer because they cannot afford health care. They do not feel the cold that too many children feel because they live in poverty and do not have adequate clothing to keep them warm, and they do not feel the betrayal of a grieving parent whose child has been killed by a law enforcement officer because no court will hold the officer accountable.
Within the heart, soul and spirit of the disinherited is a malignant tumor which metastasizes over time, and Thurman says that “a profound piece of surgery has to take place in the very psyche of the disinherited before the great claim of the religion of Jesus can be presented.” Our tumor presents in the form of metastatic hopelessness, and it is systemic. The “profound piece of surgery” which is necessary can only be performed by God because God has seen this type of tumor from the beginning of time. The challenge of God is to excise the hopelessness while not damaging or destroying the spiritual circulatory system which is the only way the promises of God can get to us and strengthen us.
With that surgery done, we are strengthened and are able to fight, because we remain anchored and sure that evil, though damaging, is not sovereign. The evil is in our lives confronted, and it balks because expects us to fret and then retreat, but a cleared spiritual circulator system gives us the energy to lick our wounds and continue to fight.
The entire process of fighting evil is exhausting. It feels like the breaks we need do not come quickly or often enough. We find ourselves asking God, “How long?” We wonder why God does not make the fight less necessary as time goes on, and because we do not get the answer, or an answer which is comforting to us, we fret, but the psalmist says not to do that. Fretting wastes the energy we need to fight evil on a daily basis.
This election day is culminating a battle which has been waged between an evil system and masses of “the disinherited.” We are not sure of what the outcome will be. We do not know what the outcome of this latest battle will be until we wake up in the morning. The challenge, however, will be that which it has always been, and that is not to fret for too long if the forces of evil should have a victory. The challenge will be to go, yet again, into the middle of the battlefield of evil and challenge it, perhaps singing,
I am on the battlefield for my Lord!
I am on the battlefield for my Lord!
And I promised God that I will serve God ‘til I die!
I’m on the battlefield for my Lord!
God, our refuge and strength, will give us what we need “at break of day” and we will let evil know that it is not our god and will never be.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad