This is perhaps the most universally accepted notion in our society. Male or female, young or old, rich or poor, believer or nonbeliever—everyone agrees: Life’s not fair. We learn the truth of it at a young age, probably when a sibling steals our lollipop and gets away with it.
The Bible concurs: “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve (Eccl. 8:4, NIV).
Yet Psalm 37:1 advises us, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong” (NIV). A more modern translation might be, “Don’t let jerks get under your skin.”
It’s good advice. Worrying over injustice, particularly when we’re not in a position to correct it, is a form of stress. And stress kills. But following this advice is another matter altogether.
Even David seemed to have trouble with that in his younger days; he often rails against the wicked in his psalms. Yet he apparently got a handle on it as he aged (he was older when he wrote this psalm—see verse 25). So how did he get to the place where he could see injustice, know it was unfair, and yet relinquish the anger associated with it?
David actually outlines his method in Psalm 37. He gives this advice:
- “Trust in the Lord” (v. 3) — Trust Him to justify you (vv. 5-6, 33), to strengthen and encourage you (v. 24), to protect you from lasting harm (v. 18), and to settle the score fairly (v. 9, 13).
- “Trust in the Lord and do good” (v. 3) — Give up your rage (v. 8) and continue to be gracious (v. 21) and generous (v. 26). In other words, don’t allow the evil around you to interfere with the good God is working out within you.
- “Take delight in the Lord” (v. 4) — Elsewhere David links this with meditating on God’s Word (Psalms 1:2; 112:1) and enjoying His presence (Psalm 36:8-9). Other biblical references also mention submitting to Him (Job 22:21-26) and enjoying the blessings of His Sabbath (Isaiah 56:8-9) as ways of coming to delight in Him.
- “Commit your way to the Lord” (v. 5) — Trust God with the specific task of watching and establishing your path (v. 23), even believing that He’s holding your hand during trouble (v. 24).
- “Wait patiently” (v. 7) – David links patience with being still before the Lord (v. 7) and with keeping His way (v. 34). These disciplines—listening for God’s voice and obeying it—make us receptive to His Spirit; patience is one of the fruits of this connection (Gal. 5:22).
Life in this world is unfair. But God does not leave us alone in an unfair world: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20, NIV).