After experiencing a crushing political defeat and breaking off an engagement to be married in 1841, Abraham Lincoln was in a dark place. He later talked about how he had contemplated suicide, but refrained because he “had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived.” His desire to do something of lasting significance gave him the motivation he needed to persevere through difficult times.
In Psalm 37, David instructs us on how to have a life of lasting significance. He encourages the reader to “Trust in the Lord and do good . . . Take delight in the Lord . . . Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (vv. 3, 4, 7). Trusting in the Lord means knowing and obeying the word of God. As David puts it, “The law of their God is in their hearts” (v. 31). We are to embrace a life of obedience (v. 27). If we do, the Lord will “uphold” us and our “inheritance will endure forever” (vv. 24, 18).
By contrast, the wicked are in a perilous position. It may look like they are flourishing and succeeding in life, but “like the grass they will soon wither” (v. 2). The wicked plot against those who follow God and oppress the poor and vulnerable (vv. 12, 14). They will not escape justice: “the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming” (v. 13).
David is very honest about the struggle we feel when what we see in the world around us doesn’t match up with what we believe. It may look to us like the wicked are winning. However, David tells us not to be anxious about their momentary success. We are to wait patiently for God to act at the right time and in the right way.
We all have a desire to live a life that has lasting significance. We want to be engaged in meaningful work and offer a legacy to those who come behind us. David reminds us that one of the best legacies we can leave is to model a life that waits upon the Lord and trusts in His judgment even when circumstances seem to be against us.