“Do not fret – it only causes harm.” (Psalm 37:4)
The political scene at the moment, in both my home country (USA) and my adopted country (UK), is rather bleak. Their citizens’ futures are uncertain. It’s a bit scary for the likes of me. I’m trying hard to take the long view, and to trust that the Lord is keeping an eye on things. I fear that times might get a lot worse before they get better, despite my confidence that the Lord will ensure goodness eventually comes out of whatever situation arises (in the broader world too with its own multitudinous troubles). Maybe, as with personal regeneration, my two countries will have to reach absolute rock bottom before they can learn better ways of working and begin to climb back up. It will not be an easy journey.
With no inclination to become a politician, I’m focusing on things I can do, trying to be an optimistic influence rather than a pessimistic doom-monger in my little corner of the globe: smile at those I meet; be kind, friendly, and helpful where I see need; play with my grandchildren; take part in my community; find fascination and beauty in the natural world; recycle and reuse as much as possible. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; … and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:3, 4
During a spell of wakeful nights recently, I took to browsing through the Liturgy to ‘calm my soul’ with its quotes from the Old and New Testaments, extracts from the Writings, prayers, many Psalms, as well as loved and familiar hymns. It’s a treasure trove of New Church thought contained in one book that fits easily on my bedside table. Psalms 37 and 46 struck me as applicable to these challenging times, reminding me that the Lord is in charge (as He always is) despite what the appearance might be.
Both these Psalms, in their deeper meaning, are no doubt really about something other than wicked plots against honest people or environmental upheaval. I haven’t looked into that – but even on a surface level, they seem relevant at the moment. Evil does exist. And our planet is under stress.
The BBC is currently broadcasting a series called Icons, to determine the most popular icon of the 20th century. (Frankly, I don’t think that’s possible – there isn’t just one!) Each of the nominated people was exceptional in what they accomplished and in the influence their lives have had subsequently. Of course, every human being is unique and has special qualities, and it’s astonishing what just one person can achieve, often not intending to at the outset. But to be honest, we’re not all exceptional in our everyday lives.
How do unexceptional people go about changing the world into a better place?
Perhaps turning to the Lord is the only real answer to the world’s ills. That surely must start with individuals, but it will take a long, long time. And because everyone has free will, not everyone will turn to the Lord.
Here’s a question from Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” And some advice from Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: do not fret – it only causes harm.Psalm 37 (extracts)
For evil-doers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall be no more. … The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, to slay those who are of upright conduct. Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.
A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. …The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.Psalm 46 (extracts)
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice; the earth melted. …
Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two. … Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.