When We Are Frustrated (Psalm 37)

Bob RoaneLoving and Trusting God, Psalms, Wise living

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Plans Were Hindered

Earlier this year, a plane left Dubai in the United Arab Emirates bound for Auckland, New Zealand. But the plane landed back at the same airport 13 hours later! Auckland Airport was closed due to severe flooding.1 It was inconvenient and frustrating to passengers, but at least they were safe. Sometimes similar things happen to us. We start on a trip, or a job, or interacting with people, then we hit one snag after another and end up right back where we started or worse off. Our work, family life, and world affairs have been messed up ever since Adam and Eve’s rebellion against the Lord. Think of the discouragement of the ancient Israelites. They were close to the Promised Land, but because of their disobedience they had to turn away and spend 40 years wandering in circles in the desert before they returned to Canaan.

Frustration can be a complicated mix of anger, annoyance, anxiety and other things. If we turn away from God and His commandments when we are disappointed, that’s bad. But if frustration helps turn us back to God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for His fellowship and help, then troubles serve a good purpose.

Psalm 37 was written by King David when he was old (see verse 25). He’d walked with the Lord for many years and learned big lessons.  This Psalm is an acrostic and each line or stanza begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This creates an “A to Z” treatment of Jesus’ wisdom that is easy to teach and memorize. David knew the puzzlement of seeing wicked people succeed and being hurt by his own sins and the sinful actions of others. In this Psalm, he gives us the Lord’s good advice to keep us from worrying when things don’t go as we want or plan. I won’t comment on every verse, but here are some highlights. There is overlap, but different items may help different readers. Of course, these remedies help us with other problems in the Christian life and with overall spiritual health.

Do Not Fret (Psalm 37:1,7-8)

If we nurse our unhappiness over events that have not gone our way, it leads to fretting, anxiety, distress, and worse. Frustration can lead to verbal or physical aggression. If we are disrespected and humiliated at work, maybe we can’t respond to our boss for fear of losing our job. So instead we go home and take out our anger on our family. Cain resented the Lord’s approval of his brother Abel and stewed over it. Then Cain got very angry and depressed. So God told him, “You will be accepted if you do right. But if you refuse to do right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” Cain ignored God, lured his brother Abel into a field, and attacked and killed him.2

Psalm 37:8 says: “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Then Scripture offers the Lord’s Christ-like replacement. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus.”3 Lord, help us do that!

Do Not Envy Wrongdoers (Psalm 37:1)

Cain was jealous of his righteous brother, but we can also be tempted to envy evil people who have possessions or positions that we want for ourselves. We covet their qualities, skills, or achievements, thinking that we deserve the same. Scripture reminds us” “Like the grass wrongdoers will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away….The Lord watches over the way of the righteous (Jesus’ followers), but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”4

The Christ-like antidote to envy is contentment. Contentment is not about getting all that we want, but rather about wanting and loving what God our Father has already given to us. Jesus says: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.5 Let’s ask the Lord to take away jealousy, envy, and coveting and replace it with Christ-likeness and peace. See also Psalm 37:16 and Philippians 4:12-13.

Trust in the Lord and Do Good (Psalm 37:3)

Frustration often strikes when we realize that we are not in control of our circumstances and other people. That can lead us to pine, brood, mope, fuss, complain, and whine. All these are unhelpful and unproductive behaviors. Instead the Lord calls us to obey Him without grumbling or arguing, so that we may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then we will shine among them like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to Christ’s word of life.6 The world desperately needs us to be salt and light for Jesus!

One hymn says:
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey

Faith and Action

Let us re-commit to trusting our faithful Lord and get busy serving Him and others, instead of being paralyzed by frustration. Oswald Chambers says: All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God. The secret of Christian calm is not indifference, but knowing that God is my caring Father. He loves me and will never forget my needs. Trusting the Lord is true life and worry becomes unnecessary.

We were never in control of our past, present, or future, beloved. Only God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is our Controller. Scripture says: “Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the majesty, and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as Head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.”7 If Christ is on our side, we will never be shaken. So how can we not trust Him to care for us?


Our Father, You shelter us like a bird with its babies. You are our loving God and our fortress, stronghold,  deliverer, and shield. Keep us safe, our God, for in You we take refuge. Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. Help us to trust and obey You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

To be continued

Notes: 1 New York Post, Jan. 30, 2023.     2 Gen 4:1-16.     3 Phil 4:6-7.     4 Psalm 37:2, 1:6.     5 1 Tim 6:6-8.     6 Phil 2:14-15.     7 1 Chron 29:11-12.     I acknowledge the help of Gail Burton Purath and her article “Psalm 37 and Dealing with Mistreatment.” Her article was given to me in prison ministry.