My grandmother was great, but she had that special mother-in-law gift of raising my mother’s blood pressure. A well-timed comment about cooking
or childrearing would leave my mom stammering and
As a teenager I would walk by and whisper, “Water
off a duck’s back, Mom.” She came to understand my
code – Let it go. Nana doesn’t mean anything by it, and we
know you’re a good wife and mother – and my whispers
usually helped. But now I wish I had known to say, “Roll
it onto God, Mom.”
Psalm 37: 5 tells us to “commit your way to the Lord.”
Translated, this verse says something like, “Roll onto Jeho-
vah thy way.” At certain family dinners that means passing
the gravy and “rolling” the need to defend ourselves, as
well as our more serious needs and concerns, onto God.
Jesus was quoting Psalm 37: 11 (KJV) when He said,
“The meek shall inherit the earth,” and it turns out the
whole psalm is a primer on meekness. I have always been
a little overmeek (reticent, shy, too deferential). So when
I read the Bible and find the meek congratulated, I’m delighted.
But there’s a catch. It turns out only two people in
Scripture are described as meek – Moses and Jesus. So
meekness likely has little to do with timidity.
If meekness isn’t weakness, what is it? The word has an
association with domesticated animals, specifically beasts
of burden. At first blush this etymology doesn’t thrill me.
I don’t particularly aspire to be oxlike. But when I think
about it, an ox at the plough is not weak but extraordinarily strong. The key, though, is that his power is harnessed
and directed. Perhaps meekness is strength submitted to
an appropriate authority.
Shortly after I began writing this column, I found myself in rare conflict with a friend. At first, I thought my
anger was giving me strength, bolstering my courage so
I could deal with the issues. But the anger soon betrayed
me, sapping my energy and compromising my ability to
act according to wisdom and divine direction. It’s only as I
have turned my hurt and the overwhelming urge to prove
I’m right over to God that I’ve begun to be able to respond
(and sometimes resist responding) from a place of holy,
rather than human, strength.
Psalm 37 is all about strength in meekness. It deals with
Strength in Meekness
What to do with the anger that saps
trusting God to be God, and with not trying to do His job.
The meek, for example, don’t repay evil for evil. They rely
on God for justice (vv.1-3). Several verses mention that
the meek don’t fret. And the meek let God provide their
hearts’ desires rather than trying to manipulate people and
circumstances to get what they want (v. 4).
How much energy do I expend trying to secure provisions, control outcomes and manage people’s perceptions
of me? Psalm 37 tells us the meek give that labour up.
They trust God’s claims that He will provide, protect and
defend, and in so doing free up resources for putting their
hands to God’s plough. It’s a good plan.
But here’s the thing: I would be fine with rolling my
burdens onto God if I were guaranteed resolution. There’s
a joke that describes the effects of playing a country song
backwards – your spouse returns, your dog is resurrected
and your truck starts working again. I wish that surrender
to God worked the same way.
But faith isn’t like that. The biblical witness is that circumstances often get more challenging, not less, when
your way is committed to the Lord. So why roll it onto
God if “it” (the need, circumstance, quarrelsome friend or
critical in-law) isn’t necessarily going to get fixed?
There are stories about prisoners in Nazi camps who
were made to move heavy boulders from one end of a field
to the other, only to carry them back again. Many of the
men were eventually driven mad, not by the backbreaking
nature of the work, but by its futility.
It isn’t the experience of being misunderstood (or
suffering or poverty) itself that will undo us, but rather
the sense we are enduring hardship to no good end. That’s
why the Apostle Paul emphasized that we do not labour in
vain (1 Corinthians 15: 58). We discover there is no wasted
effort or pain because there is nothing God cannot redeem.
I have a choice. I can wear myself out pushing the
boulders of my life around my prison yard. Or I can
be meek and roll those burdens onto God. I’m not sure
exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “The meek shall
inherit the earth,” but I’ve certainly discovered that this
world is a better place when I roll it off my shoulders and
into His hands. FT
CarOLyn arenDS published a previous version of this
column in her e-book Theology in Aisle Seven: The Uncommon Grace of Everyday Spirituality (Christianity Today
International, 2012), available at www.carolynarends.com.
Hear more from singer, writer and speaker Carolyn Arends
at this spring’s Women Alive conferences in Grande Prairie,
Alta., and Waterloo, ont. ( www.womenalive.org). Find more
of these columns at www.theEFC.ca/ WomenAliveF T.
WomenAlive n By CArolyn ArEnDs