Sunday, August 14, 2022

The commonness of the fawn response in everyday life


I’m hoping this will be a massive encouragement to anyone who suffers the fawn response trigger in the face of danger.  I’m hoping to show that it is a very common response, more common than most of us would care to imagine.

We don’t think in these ways typically, but these days we acknowledge trauma responses more than ever before, which I’m personally very thankful for.  As a society, we are gaining a better awareness and grasp over these issues that are common within the fabric of our humanity.

Trauma and its responses are prevalent in all societies.

The fawn response is so common that we hardly even bat an eye when we see it.  I saw it today when I tuned in to an online church service, and saw someone on stage introduced, and the way they moved and responded to the other person was an example of the fawn response.  They were simply told to move forward a step, but because the person felt awkward being on stage, plus with another person telling them to move forward, their implicit skip of a step forward showed their fawn response – to please and appease the one they were doing it for.

Hardly anyone would have noticed it, but it looked awkward.

To be honest, we see the fawn response in so many people so often we hardly notice that it’s a trauma response.  I think it’s the most common trauma response, and it’s especially present in Christians.  Those of us who want to be kind, who want to be patient, who want to be gentle, find ourselves entrenched in a world that is anything other than these three qualities, and we find ourselves fawning.  Without a choice.  It’s instinctive.

How very sad it is that a trauma response is initiated simply through wanting to be kind and patient and gentle with people, and that it comes out most of all when people are unkind, impatient, and harsh with us.

The fawn response is the automatic reaction we give when we sense there is a threat to our safety.  And imagine that this response seeks to protect the person and serve that person who is a threat!  Imagine extending such grace to someone who would not give you the time of day.  That’s how it is with the fawn response.

You give someone the blessing of your gentle and kind and considerate nature, and they either spurn it, manipulate you, or take advantage of the situation some other way.  This is how the world works.  The vulnerable are taken advantage of.  Those who are inherently safe to be around, those who find their life purpose is to love other people sacrificially, are unsafe around unsafe people.  Because love is always manipulated and kindness is always abused by narcissistic people.

The commonness of the fawn response in everyday life is striking.

If we said that a third of the population were capable of manipulating people, and generally entered into that behaviour, you could say that another third would be fawners, and that these are the manipulated.  Those who are the godliest in society are probably most prone to being fawners, especially when we acknowledge the prevalence of trauma in all our societies.

There ought to be no shame in a person who finds themselves triggered by a manipulator that causes them to respond in submission, which does no harm to the manipulator.

But that gentleness, patience, and kindness is costly for the fawner.  They must bear the cost of knowing what it feels like to submit under aggression.  It’s demeaning.  And the manipulator not only doesn’t care about what it costs the fawner, they get some sick pleasure out of having such aggressive power and control over them.

I want to say to the fawner that you know you wish nobody any harm.

You would rather be harmed than harm.  To harm is unconscionable for you.

The opportunity ahead is simply to notice the initiation of fawning, to not judge it, to accept it as preferable over abusing a person (better to be abused than to abuse), and even to imagine that you’re being a blessing in your loving the other person despite how they may treat you.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Lament is the highest yet humblest form of spirituality


Of the two forms of response to life situations that seem impossible to grasp, lament is far superior to complaint, even if complaint is allowable.

But what is lament? What does it mean to lament? How does one lament?

Lament, for me, means to sit in the sadness, to feel the resignation, to refuse any attempt to change the situation or our response.  Lament, in short, means to simply accept.  And in the acceptance is the key to life itself.  We may go through our whole entire lives and never really have any sense of grasp on this holy and sacred state of being human.

A person only needs to experience this raw lament once and they will be convinced that is the only way to connect to the higher heaven with our feet firmly planted on this earth.

Imagine sitting in the truth of the very undesirable situation, and not only being able to sit in it and accept that it cannot be changed, but to embrace that truth that tends to kill our hope.

It seems so fanciful from our vantage point, perhaps having never been there.  But not only is there a place, the one of lament reconciling us to a miracle, but it is a miracle, and the key to life itself.

Complaint, on the other hand, is the normal human response, and it’s so very understandable, but it doesn’t take us anywhere good.  Complaint takes us around the mountain once more, and when we arrive back where we started, we’re offered another turn around the mountain, and then another, and so on until we have enough.

Lament is in another realm compared to complaint, the former is heavenly and spiritual, while the latter is worldly and secular.  Just as God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts, so lament is heavens higher than complaint.

Allow me to illustrate.

When finally I arrive at the place and situation of stillness in that situation I can hardly bear, I have transcended my need, my desire, even my insistence, that I can control what I can’t.  This is a crucial first step in accepting something so basic yet so thoroughly elusive to almost everyone.

Of a real sense, this lament is quintessentially characterised as humility.

It’s what the mystics teach us if ever we depart from the world long enough to read what they wrote.  Go back a few centuries, go back to the dark ages, read, and you will find the same questions are asked that are asked today, and the same answers abide.

In the core of lament is the solution to anxiety, to depression, to all manifestation of not being able to reconcile this world.  The utter paradox is, in giving up all sense of control, we gain about all the control we’ll ever need.

Lament is the highest yet humblest form of spirituality.

In life we do not need to change a thing – especially the painful thing.  Those things that would have frightened or saddened us beyond compare are there to be held in order to take us deeper than we’ve ever been.

Truly, nothing can break us if only we can be still and know we will be alright if we simply abide in calm serenity.  Not only that, but in simply sitting there in it, we’re taken fathoms deeper in our spiritual growth than we’ve ever been.

Truthfully, it’s the true holy grail.  And it’s the absolute simplest, powerfullest thing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The wisdom of the next thing


As I anxiously watched for my son to come around the corner of the cross-country race recently, I was struck by the idea that what I was presently concerned about would soon (within seconds) fade completely from my consciousness.

Yet we place so much stock in the moments we become anxious about.  So many of these moments are innocuous.  Yet we are easily frantic about them.  My son wasn’t going to be defined by either a poor or great performance.  This is because life is always about the next thing.

Indeed, life goes best when we don’t languish in the moment of either triumph or disaster, in Rudyard Kipling’s words, “those two imposters.”

When we languish in our triumph, we’re left behind.  When we languish in our disaster, we lose hope.  When life is only about triumph, we’re often disappointed and frustrated.  When life is lost in disaster, we’re quickly stuck in a rut.

But there is wisdom in the next thing.  There is a purpose as we receive the present yet continue to look forward to the next thing.  Preparations are made for what is anticipated, and planning is prioritised, so we can be responsible and relational human beings.

The next thing is about recognising we’re rated on our performances.  If we expect to be characterised around past performance, we will be severely let down in realising that life judges present performance, but always from the aspect of it being past.

It’s no good calling back to what we did in a yesterday season.  People have forgotten that.  What is front and centre is the good we do today.  And the good we’ll do tomorrow is right on the horizon in the now.

To keep doing the good we can do today, we need to be ever forward focused.  It’s impossible to be present in an effective way if we haven’t planned that present in the past.

Another reason why there is wisdom in the next thing is we are never daunted by that which may easily overawe us.  We only need to think of the dreams we hold in our hearts, and if these were to take place in our lives, how two not-so-good things might happen, if we didn’t set our eyes even a little on the next thing:

1.             we could quickly become overwhelmed in the moment and hence lose focus

2.             we could be satisfied and therefore our focus for the next thing would fade and diminish

The wisdom of the next thing is a drive that will keep us going through our entire lives.

The wisdom of the next thing keeps us humble, approachable, locked into interdependent relationships where we’re no better and no worse than others.

The wisdom of the next thing keeps us hungry, helps us to focus on others, and ensures that we are ready for the inevitable future.  The only time the future stops becoming relevant is when we’re dead.  The future needs to be our friend, yet anxiety and sloth steal the potential from the clutches of the future, when we fear it or are ambivalent about it.

The wisdom of the next thing is our impetus for equipping.  Whenever we consider that more will be required of us in coming days, we ready ourselves for whatever battle we may need to fight.  There is nothing better for soldiers and servants alike than to be ready.

The wisdom of the next thing is our assurance we will have done all we can with what we had.  From hindsight, we can see how such an approach ensures we don’t sit on our laurels.

The wisdom of the next thing is also about planning to rest so the next things aren’t compromised by fatigue.

The wisdom of the next thing is about hope and aspiration.  There’s no life in plateauing.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Pastoral care raises up real leaders via the care they received


One of the signs of a true leader is those who follow, but this so often has been a success marker for narcissistic leaders: those who might get all the gushing praise yet lead people to a place where they serve the leader’s selfish purpose and nothing else.

There’s one way to raise up real leaders that works 100% of the time.  The real leader, one who is reliable in their pursuit of excellent outcomes for people and not just the process, is a wounded healer.  They’ve learned through harsh life experience how to care for people, and they learned this through being cared for through their struggles.

Think about how you were raised up to be a leader if you are one.  Or think about someone you admire as a leader.  Chances are they were mentored through a very difficult period, they were cared for, they received pastoral care, and the kindness of a human soul or souls who behaved like Jesus would have behaved.

They learned firsthand how to be supported, and in being supported they learned how it feels to be loved.  They saw the incredible value in it though noticing how valuable they were personally through the care they received.  They received a priceless gift, and in receiving something they couldn’t possibly give back, they decided to give back through paying the care they received forward.

I think that the church has gotten the whole formula for leadership development wrong over the years.  The church has not valued enough true pastoral care of those who are suffering.  In this, the church has not valued the true leaders in the church, and they are the pastoral carers.

One example of this failure is how little value has been placed in the function of pastoral care that it’s outsourced to lay people when it often needs a pastor or counsellor.  Another example is how abysmally pastoral care pastors have been treated so often.  This is because narcissistic ‘leader’ pastors have felt threatened by a pastoral care pastor’s ability to create rapport in their relationships, which is the trust they’ve been given.

All this reflects how the church has neglected the critical function of pastoral care for decades.  Far too much emphasis for far too long has been placed in church growth, CEO model ‘leadership’ and evangelism.

Imagine a vision of the church caring for people who are at a transformational point in their life such that they receive the care they’re so needy of that paying that care forward is a springboard into leadership.  How many people receive a calling through having experienced what Paul calls a care that “comforts those in any trouble with the comfort they have received themselves from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

There is no better leader in the church than the one who has received the comfort of God through the care of another.  That person will have received what can only be termed as a miracle, in that they felt God’s care in and through a human being—a leader in the vein of Jesus.  A person like this has been hand-picked by God to be a leader.

We need more of these leaders in our churches and in our world who have been schooled in empathy through the empathy of others so that they are compelled to grant their own empathy to others.

There is humility in the leader who has been helped by others and they help others because of the help that they have received.  The world needs more humble leaders who have experienced care and healing, and because of this, can lead others to care and healing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

A relationship of higher worth than gold


What single quality in a relationship, any relationship, would make that relationship not only worth keeping but celebrating?  I was asked this question recently, and it got me pondering.  “Just one quality, that’s all I can pick?” was my answer nestled in a question.

Just one quality.

Then it was another conversation I had only two days afterward where I was serendipitously given the answer, or what I feel is the answer.

Two completely unconnected events.

A relationship not only worth keeping but celebrating is a relationship where short account is not only allowed but encouraged and practised, where there is license for all parties to speak the truth in love, where respect and equality abide, where we can be home WITH and IN another person.  Where neither lives in fear of the other person’s reaction.

Think about a relationship in terms of being comfortable in your own skin around another person, much as you were if it were just you conversing with yourself.  This is the ideal for marriage.

We have no problems thinking about and trying to resolve our own truth, so when we are able to be honest with others about what we think and how we feel, and about how they and others impact us, we are at our very best relationally speaking.

Conversely, it’s the same for the other person in a reciprocal arrangement, which relationships are supposed to be, to have license to raise anything that’s on their heart.

Importantly, speaking the truth in love is about communicating with kindness, gentleness, patience, and grace.  Whenever someone communicates in this fruit of the Spirit, they ought to be received, listened to, and responded to in ways that reveal they have been listened to, and thereby respected. Reciprocation in one word.

It's only when people cannot or will not communicate in the fruit of the Spirit that people end up upset, and boundaries need to be installed to protect against further harm.

Additionally, it’s also when there is no ability to keep short account, where a person receiving the truth cannot handle the truth, where there is no agency for a person to communicate truth.

Many relationships are like this, where the truth would be a bridge too far, because there isn’t the maturity in the person or the relationship to be able to bear such truth.

Too many relationships, including too many marriages, feature the communication aspect of sweeping difficult issues under the rug.  In peacemaking terms, this is what’s termed peacefaking.  It’s a fake and very fragile ‘peace’—and really no peace at all.  It’s only a matter of time in these relationships before an impasse threatens to or breaks the bond.  This is because the relationship was never based in the full measure of truth, because that freedom wasn’t extended to the other, which is the maturity that is prepared to struggle with the awkwardness of truth, knowing that it’s not truth that crushes relationships, but the despair of betrayal for not speaking what needs to be said.

In the same way, where truth is communicated gently and kindly, and the person receiving the truth reacts angrily against it, it leaves the person communicating the truth in the awkward position of needing to decide whether it’s safe to do so or not.  So many times, it’s not, and so people avoid telling the truth in these situations as a result.

~

If any of us has a relationship where the other person is able to hear our truth, and we can hear theirs, where no truth is held back, that relationship right there is not only worth keeping but celebrating.

Imagine being in a relationship where anything that needs to be communicated can be communicated and there is a maturity in the relationship to sit in the reality of truth.  Imagine not having to second-guess when and how to raise important truths.  Imagine being rewarded by being thanked for bringing the truth.  Imagine being the one who is trusted with this truth and thanking this other person.  In other words, the person who shares their truth with us, even though it may temporarily upset us, shows us how much they trust and respect us.

Realistically, this trust and respect should prevail in all marriages, and these qualities are incredibly beneficial in the workplace, too.  Indeed, without a doubt, any relationship that bears the qualities of truth-telling is a relationship worth not only keeping but celebrating.

Telling the truth is a loving thing to do, but if the reaction of a person means truth can’t be told, the whole relationship suffers for want of the fullness of truth’s love.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Welcome to retreat, come and BE


Waves crashing on the shore, an all-to-unfamiliar sound.  The pitter-patter of rain between short bursts of downpour.  Darkness, no other sources of light.  No competing sounds with those waves breaking.  The occasional wisp of air.  The cool and still air.  The lovely Decaf brewed coffee.  Sitting on a cold wooden bench.  My senses feeling...

You might think I’d give writing a break whilst on retreat, but the truth is I don’t get anywhere near enough time to retreat into my own head and heart.  Writing is what I’ve done for nearly 15 years now to connect to me, to my life, to life itself, to others as I reflect on my relational performance, and ultimately to God.  Writing is connection.

It’s a privilege it is to feel.  It really is.  I’ve grown to love the feeling of the primary emotions that many people ordinarily shun.  Feeling my skin, feeling my sadness, feeling my lack and accepting it, feeling how small I am in my world, yet how beloved I am by the Creator.  These are all huge blessings.  They’re connection, connection with the eternal.

I returned from leave four days ago.  Those past four days back at work have been a whirlwind of information, fielding calls, emails, texts, and all of this is noise.  From presenting a brand-new 3-hour workshop for the first time, to meeting with six different firefighting crews over two days, to commencing an investigation into a critical incident, to conducting four counselling sessions in my other work.  The past four days has felt like a marathon at sprint speed, and I’ve been constantly connected to adrenalin, apart from the counselling which I find gets me into an entirely different, contemplative space—it’s just another person’s material and not my own (which is fine).

As I sit here on this worn bench at this wonderful Baptist campsite that holds so many good memories, we’re welcomed into the presence of freedom, space to contemplate, find God, and to hear what life is saying to us.

At this point of finding space has finally arrived, I do wonder how YOU are going.  Have you had time to have that honest chat with yourself about how you’re faring?

Honestly, I’m interested.

How do you connect with yourself?  It’s not just introverts that need to get away and find a place to find themselves all over again.  Extraverts burn out too.  Too much inevitably is too much.

How are you going with your self-care?  How long’s it been since you got lost inside a book, or on a hike, or within the concepts of the enormity of life?  Jesus had to be alone, and it wasn’t because he was an introvert.  That’s a secular attribution that he was.  Jesus loved people, but he also knew his life force was connection with the Father.

It’s better to be honest about being frustrated than fake a false joy.  It’s better to admit there’s a gap and that we’ve still not found what we’re looking for.  There’s no shame in not having the answers—and indeed, it’s refreshingly courageous to stand up in a room of fakers and tell the authentic and vulnerable truth.

At least that way the door to one’s healing is cracked ajar.

How are you going?  How are you REALLY going?

All I can tell you is that FIVE minutes of this wave-pounding, raining, cold bliss is enough to show me that a whole weekend doing this is going to do me and my life and my family a LOT of good.

Welcome to feeling.  Come and feel!  Welcome to retreat.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Comforters take comfort in knowing nothing as they comfort


The greatest test of humility in a comforter is their abiding, unknowing presence with a person who’s bewildered in their suffering.  Not needing to answer the harder questions, demonstrating the ability to NOT dare to attempt to “fix” the situation or the person; that’s the prerogative of the comforter who takes comfort and has peace in knowing nothing about the unknowable things in helping a person who’s experiencing an impossible situation of grief, change, hardship, torment, betrayal.

~

In my counselling training, arguably the most important concept I learned was the process of “unknowing.”  That is, as helper, to know that knowing nothing—to put off all one’s own knowledge—was not only necessary to help, but vital in not getting in the way.  That is, “unknowing” helps most as a helper of children and it also helps in helping adults.

Such unknowing is the true skill and humility of the craft of counselling.

Unknowing is integral to holding space.  It’s the active part, silence being the inactive part.

Comforters must actively unknow what comes up in them as they help.  The most urgent thing to unknow is where a trigger is taking us.  At times as counsellors we get triggered, so a vital part of our process is to process the trigger, taking account of it, for later.

All unknowing at the level of helping is essentially about giving a comfort only God can provide. This means WE must get right out of the way—no explaining, no “human wisdom,” no “this is what I did” (that’s mentoring), no examples.

In context of the deeper, harder questions...
Comforters are neither explainers nor example-givers.
Comforters cannot pretend to know they know the answers.

Not that a comforter can’t speak.  They CAN!

They CAN encourage and thereby strengthen.  They CAN affirm by holding up the proverbial mirror.  “What you’re facing right now would challenge anyone.”  “You have a lot of courage facing this fear.”  “You facing your sadness and fear shows massive faith.”  “Faith is stepping forward one moment at a time, and you’re doing just that.”  “Know that when you doubt but don’t give up, that’s huge faith.”  “Everything you’re feeling is normal in your situation.”  “Getting help and drawing on support right now is one of the wisest things you can do.”

None of these things are said initially, however.  
They can only be said in context, and they 
always need to be contextualised.

Encouragement and affirmation have their place, but they’re always after we as comforters know where and how and when to place them.  Speaking of where, how, and when...

~

What comforters are urged NOT to do is explain away 
the “how,” the “why,” the “when,” the “what,” etc, of mysteries.

The “how” is an interpretation of what is needed to resolve the situation.  Especially when it comes to loss, when there might be a million or three hows, there is no definitive “how.”  Even though there are models for therapy that give some guidance on process, never do they ever give the definitive way.  Much discernment and respect for the nuances of the situation itself are required.

The “why” imputes that the comforter knows not just the mind of God, but information far beyond any human’s capacity, into the inscrutable purposes beyond rationality.  Nobody knows this stuff, and nobody’s got the “gift” of this discernment.  Only the person who’s suffering themselves may unravel such a mystery (usually with a variety of help and support)—and not everyone does—and that’s a process that can take years, even a lifetime.  It’s no shame on a person to never determine the “why.”  Indeed, of all the paradoxes of life and God, those who become most mature have ultimately learned to accept what they couldn’t possibly understand.

The “when” is also a future-focused explanation, and again, only God can lead a person to knowing when grief turns to acceptance, when to begin the work forward into intrepid change, when to take drastic steps, when to up the ante, etc.  In this, there’s a lot of potential damage done to a person and their situation if even one element is neglected.  Timing can be an inscrutable thing, and the individual person’s discernment is vital.  Again, a variety of help and support over the years proves invaluable, but it’s the person themselves who puts the pieces together—all comforters need to respect this.

The “what” again is about pretending to know the situation with exact intimacy, which is beyond human knowledge.  This has the feeling of putting a finger on the situation and identifying the “what” of the problem, and then the “what” of the solution.  This is a dangerous and an inevitably foolish practice.  It reveals in the helper someone who must be right, who must know what they’re doing, a person who is a gifted helper in all situations.  But this is NOT how you become a gifted helper in all situations.

Gifted helpers in all situations use a process of trust and poise in intentionally NOT knowing.  Their process works by promising to DO nothing without God revealing it through the person they’re helping.

The unknowing comforter is an ally who can be trusted because, as God is their witness, they know they walk on sacred and holy ground with the person.  It’s about walking with the person in their unknowing and walking together on the path of eventual discovery.

Comforters are urged NOT to attempt to answer the inexplicable questions or to “fix” the situation or the person; the “how,” the “why,” the “when,” the “what,” etc, of mysteries is unknowable.  It is best to simply “walk with” the person suffering.  They don’t need (or want) you to “fix” or know anything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Permission to sit with and launch from the fawn response


Anyone reading this who has had to deal with a narcissistic person, or to work within narcissistic structures, as an empathic and empathetic person, may have noticed the use of the fawn response.

The fawn response is a necessary appeasing of a relational dynamic where there is no choice but to accommodate an unrealistic expectation on the behalf of a person or situation that is demanding and thereby controlling.  In that moment, we are holding space not only for ourselves, but we are catering for others who are also affected by at times woeful behaviour.

The fawn response buys us time, and there is a nuance within the adult behaviour that can ameliorate this fawn response, bringing safe empowerment into the dynamic below the threshold of what the narcissist can see.  So there is a way where an initial fawn response transitions from fawning to adult behaviour which is seen by others in the dynamic as strength in an otherwise impossible situation.

Adult behaviour from a transactional analysis viewpoint, is logical, reliable, realistic, responsible, and rational—and that’s what you can transition into, even as you notice your initial response, that placates the person who is operating out of a narcissistic space, which is demanding and controlling and leaves no room for anyone’s agency.

This is an affirmation that fawn response, that may have left you feeling ashamed of or guilty of falling into, again and again, does have its purpose in that moment neither you nor anyone can control, for it is controlled by a demanding other.

Giving ourselves permission to operate out of a trauma response is one way we can engage with a therapy that works with what is already in our bodies that forms our responses now by instinct.

Essentially, there is more than one way to blossom out of the trauma responses that have stuck to us out of the trauma we have been exposed to.

More and more, as we see ourselves transitioning from the permission giving space to the adult space of taking some of the space back, we see others respond with peace and security, given the leadership we can provide—even out of the initial fawn response.  This is noticed in the reduction of overall anxiety, and in the confidence of a rising agency in us and those others affected as we quietly and respectfully unify under tyranny.

This is a godly concept, because through divine help, we have the increasing capacity to notice our fawn response, and to not fall into self-diminution, but to respond with a ‘grey rock’ (“nothing to see here”) stealthy courage, bringing in the adult behaviour that is necessary to ameliorate what is otherwise an impossible situation.

And even if the situation isn’t ameliorated, even if we provoke the bear, we find we have an increasing ability to not be intimidated, to stand our ground gently though firmly.  From such strength there is great capacity to hold safe space for anyone in the dynamic.

When we notice our fawn response, or it could be fight or flight or freeze, we are garnering awareness, which is strength, because choice is emerging, and empowerment is the next emergent step.

Out of awareness is the opportunity of action, and from the biblical view point we can see how nothing can overcome those who have faith in God to restore power to those once-weaker places.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Prospering even when you don’t (meditation of Psalm 37)


There’s an ever-present desire in life to prosper, yet everyone who desires to do good inevitably finds those who desire to do evil tend to prosper more.  This is a common phenomenon.  Whenever we feel our good intent or deeds are ignored or get us nowhere, yet we notice another with malevolent intent or deeds succeeds in their way, this truth is borne out in life.

Being that it is so common that those with malicious intent and actions succeed in life, this can easily lead us to throwing our hands in the air.  We are tempted to lose heart in despair, or we become cynical, and we certainly feel disempowered.

This is where bathing in Psalm 37 can assist us no end.

When we read words like, “Don’t fret when people succeed in their ways, when they work their wicked schemes, or envy the success of those who do wrong, for like the grass they’ll wither soon, like plants they will die away,” our intrigue rises, and we are entranced by the metaphor.

Immediately, as we read on, we find there’s an inherent blessing in sowing by the faith of doing what maybe seen as an invisible good.  What I mean by that is, few if any may notice, but there is ONE who notices everything; the only important one from an eternal perspective.

Whenever there is fear for the narcissist who plots their wicked schemes, there is a reciprocal reality, “the LORD laughs at the wicked, he knows their day is coming.”

As we stand in advance of the righteous justice that is about to ensue, our heart is prepared for the justice of vindication, which will shine like the noonday sun at its proper time.

The more we bathe in Psalm 37, the more we may find that there is an invisible nature to life that we often fail to see.  The evil reap their reward, as do those who do good.  Life has a way of evening the ledger, depending on what we do, but it does take years in the process.

The wisdom of God would counsel us to be mindful of these years, to be patient for the decades, and to hold the centuries in respectful regard.  Nobody gets away with anything.  And we are all grass.

“Better the little the righteous have than the wealth of the wicked, for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.”

Reading verses like this couplet above (vv. 16-17) we’re admonished that there really is no reason to fall for the temptation of fretting for what mischievous people seem to get away with.

When we’re reminded that the blameless receive divine care, and we take that wisdom on board, we can focus then on doing what we can to live as if for the audience of one.

There truly is no truer peace than the resolve that says, “Despite what I see all around me in this situation, and what is happening to me because I am a threat, I will do good anyway.”

This truly is the essence of Christian living, and it is the design for life in a world where people who do evil seem to get their way.  And in a world where evil seems to reign, there’s only one cogent defence—true belief in the (eventual) justice of God.

It’s no coincidence that this psalm decrees as a theme that I those who do good will inherit the land, that they will prosper materially and not just spiritually.  This is a balm to anyone who has suffered financial loss or abuse at the hands of a fraudster.  And there are many women in this position because of how society treats men and marriage.  Those who have been broken financially are counselled to simply work hard in recovery, to do what they can, and to consider what it will be like when that restoration occurs.  We place much stock in the physical land in this physical life, can you imagine the value of the land in eternity?

The other key theme of this psalm is the inevitability of the wicked perishing.  This is both a warning and an encouragement; a warning to those who are tempted and worse motivated to manipulate and deceive, for those who will listen, for there are many who will not, and it’s an encouragement for those who are committed to good to continue in that vein by faith.

I will conclude with this: the couplet verses 25-26 tell of an older person’s testimony:

“I was young and now I’m old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.”

Perhaps the key to this verse is in the answer to the person who says they have seen the righteous forsaken.  The answer is in the second verse, verse 26: the focus of those who appear to be forsaken is on generosity and not getting ahead.  Only those who are full of faith can live generously whilst in the circumstance that appears to be forlorn.

The measure of our faith is our resilience in adversity, and all that sets us apart from failure here is the commitment to simply do good, to do what we can, to trust that things will work out.

Our focus cannot be about those who prosper in their manipulations and deceit.  There is no life there, only spiritual death in discouragement and despair.

The evidence of the eternal is plain for anybody with insight.  The fact that we do not live here on earth forever, that there is a death for each of us to endure, and that there is good and evil in this world, when the heart evidences there is only one right way, is evidence enough that there is a world beyond, where all things will be made new one day.

It’s worth doing good for, 
and focusing on the good, 
no matter what happens on this earth.

Whenever a person decides to live this way, the way of Psalm 37, they will prosper even when they don’t.  Their faith leads to overcoming temptation for despair, and in transcending the desire to make comparisons that lead to envy, joys are added to peace and hope abounds—despite their apparent circumstances.

This Psalm 37 life is a life to be lived to be believed, and in living it, belief is fortified and assured.