Tuesday, August 27, 2013


We say that an infant is fretful who restlessly half-cries, half-whines, and continually makes unhappy, complaining snivels and whimpers. The baby just doesn't respond to comforting. Moms know the difference between fretting and colic-like, piercing, painful cries that really do demand attention. Fretting is more like nagging, irritating, staccato noises that don’t seem to be serious but nevertheless get on your nerves.

Could fretting be something that adults also engage in? Surely not sweet-tempered Christian moms or gentle grandmas! Is there a mirror around?

The dictionary defines fretting as "being excessively worried, anxious, vexed, irked, troubled, consumed by an emotion that wears you down and erodes your contentment.” Those are not very becoming attitudes for a trusting child of God. Jesus diagnoses it as “heart trouble” and commands us, “Let not your heart be troubled….” 

I’m ashamed to say that I do catch myself fretting more than occasionally. At times I act more like a spiritual infant than a seasoned Christian well along in years. My Heavenly Father can’t be pleased to hear that sort of noise from a child like me who should be further along in maturity.

What does my fretting look like and sound like? Sometimes I go over and over a certain matter in my mind like a broken record. I can’t seem to turn it off. Usually it isn’t some colossal issue but something inconsequential that is bothering no one else but me. I find myself sweating the small stuff. I feel edgy and bothered about something that is usually trivial. Nevertheless, it annoys me and gnaws at me. In reality, that symbolism is vividly accurate—it is eating away at my peace. I feel it deep down in my stomach almost like a spiritual ulcer of worry that corrodes healthy tissue.

Fretting brings along more attitudes dressed in the costumes of my personal Seven Dwarfs—Touchy, Crabby, Cranky, Cross, Peevish, Testy and Huffy. They may look small, but they cause giant problems. They sneak up on me unawares and effectively disable me from being an effective witness to my Christian faith. 

When I fret, I confess that I’m impatient and that is not a fruit of the Spirit. No wonder fret is a four letter word to avoid—it is the antithesis of peace, harmony, contentment and docility to the will of God. Perhaps I’m not alone when I say that I have a hard time waiting for things to happen in God’s time. Since I’m accustomed to act in the fast lane, I fret because I can’t make something happen fast enough.

In Psalm 37 King David used the word fret three times. “Fret not yourself…” It was a negative command, not simply a polite suggestion. To fret or not to fret is obviously something that is under my own control. No one puts fret on me; I cook it up myself and “boil in my own stew,” so to speak. I waste my effort if I pray for God to stop me from fretting. I have to take myself by the scruff of my neck and simply stop doing it. By an act of my will I must refuse to fret and replace it with something else. So what should I substitute for my frequent penchant to fret? Should I tape an eleventh commandment on my bathroom mirror? “Thou shalt not fret!”

King David doesn’t leave me without a solution: “Fret not yourself…Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Fret not yourself, it will only harm you…” (Psalm 37: 4, 5, 7, 8). That’s a loaded passage of Scripture worthy of serious meditation to unpack all of its implications.

Best of all, such wisdom and my obedience to embrace that solution are guaranteed to banish those cantankerous Seven Dwarfs whom I too often allow to march in my door whistling a fret song. 

I'm going to stop putting FRET on my Welcome Mat!

1 comment:

Donna Duffy said...

Perfect for me today, Leona. God has been working on me in the "fret" area. Your blog really puts into words what I had been feeling. Thanks so much!
Donna Duffy