I have been waiting my entire adult life to have one. I am thrilled that I finally do.
I finally have a wood burning fireplace. In my living room.
Ever since we moved into our house this summer, I tiny bit of me began to look forward to the cooler temperatures. I longed to sit on our comfy couch, curled up with my husband to enjoy the unmatched warmth and beauty of logs set ablaze.
Those days have come. And they are wonderful.
Still, every time we have a fire, I find myself a bit amazed at the entire process. It requires some forethought. We have to bring in the wood from outside, gather kindling, and make sure the lighter is near the fireplace. Then, once it is going, the fire needs to be stoked and monitored. Our little living room fireplace burns through an astounding amount of lumber.
I thought about my fireplace when I did some reading on Psalm 37. There is a phrase repeated several times:
“Do not fret.”
In Hebrew, the word for “fret” is “Charah.” It is the same word used to talk about fire in other places. It can be translated “to burn” or “to kindle.”
To fret is to add kindling and spark to a dangerous fire.
If we are not careful, it can create flames that eat us up and leave us in ashes.
Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. – Psalm 37:1-2
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. – Psalm 37:7-8
That last line in particular really catches my attention, “Do not fret- it only leads to evil.”
I’ve heard of worry leading to heart attacks, but leading to evil? Really?
But the more I think about it, the more I see why it is phrased so strong. When we fret, our perspective gets completely out of whack.
When we envy others for their successes, we objectify them. We see them only as they relate to our achievements, not how they relate to our God. Instead of seeing their core identity as loved children of our King, we see them as competitors against our status.
Perhaps even worse is what this fretting shows about our perspective of God. It shows we have lost faith in His goodness and power. Somehow, something has happened to make us think the control of our universe in our hands instead of His.
When we let ourselves fret, we put kindling on a dangerous fire: the fire of thinking we know better than God.
Now, those feeling of worry and envy? I think those are natural. Human. It is a broken world, and it is so, so difficult to not feel jealous or anxious.
Fretting suggests we are letting those feelings of envy and worry ruminate.
When we worry, we light a match. We could take that match, and put it out under the cool water of God’s overflowing grace and love. When we fret, we instead take that match and put it under the kindling jealousy and envy and doubt.
The trick is not to try to avoid stumbling into feelings of worry. The trick is to stay close to the God who can help us stop that fire before it burns out of control.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. – Psalm 37:23-24
What happens when you worry? Can you relate to the analogy of a fire?
Walk through the Psalms is a series working its way through the book of Psalms, one Psalm a week, one post a week, in order. It is grounded in the belief that as Psalms swirl through prayers of pain and praise, they paint a portrait of a life of faith. And, as with any walk, it is better with company; all are welcome to join. To learn more, read this.
It comes out when I am on Facebook. It comes out when I am at the gym. It comes out when I am reading blogs. It comes out when I am at the store.
Comparison. It is the monster that always comes back.
The monster comes at me armed.
Sometimes it is armed with envy. “My life would be better if I were that skinny.” Sometimes it is armed with self-abasement. “I’ll never be as funny as her.” Sometimes it is armed with jealousy. “Why are some people so blessed?” Sometimes it is armed with judgment. “She looks too perfect. No one is that perfect.” Sometimes it is armed with pride. “Well, at least I’m more successful than him.”
No matter which of these weapons the monster chooses, it always has the same result: Comparison pierces my heart, and contentment bleeds out.
Suddenly, I am no longer happy with how God has made me. I am no longer pleased with the path God has me on. I am no longer filled with God’s peace.
In Psalm 4, David is once again on the run from someone. He is feeling down. He is calling out to God for rescue and justice. Yet, in the midst of that, he prays something amazing.
Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. – Psalm 4:6-7
David asks God to shine His face shine on those who are looking for prosperity. He asks for God to bless them.
When I see someone who is successful, I don’t often pray for God to make them more successful. In fact, I don’t think I have ever prayed that. I am more likely to pray that God would make me as successful as that person.
But David’s prayer is for the other person’s blessing, and his own heart.
Bless them, Lord. And when they are blessed, fill my heart with joy.
David prays for a joy that runs deeper than blessing. A joy rooted in his relationship with God. A relationship that is secure through our time in the pit and someone else’s time in the spotlight. A relationship that allows him to finish the psalm with this verse.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8
You alone, Lord, are my security. I do not need to compare to others. I need to look to You. You, Lord, bring me peace.
And so, the next time the monster comes out, I have a strategy. A defense that I think will work against any of the weapons it brings.
The next time I start to compare myself to someone else, I will pray for God to shine His face upon the other person.
Lord, when someone is more popular than me, bless them. Lord, when someone is prettier than me, bless them. Lord, when someone is more successful than me, bless them. Lord, when someone is smarter than me, bless them.
Bless them Lord, and fill my heart with joy. In peace and security, I will rest in You.