How should a Christian personally respond to evil that touches his or her life?

Have you been a victim of evildoers? We all have been touched by the presence of evil as the cumulative effect of sin in our culture. The Psalms have much to teach us about how God's people are to respond when they are touched by evil. Our time and culture is not uniquely distressing: God's people in every age have lived with the impact of evil on their lives. Psalm 37 shows David's personal response to encountering evil in his life.


The Psalms address practical, personal, and real tensions. There is much instruction to be gained if we open our hearts to God's Word. The book of Psalms is part of the wisdom literature of the Bible. God wants you to learn wisdom; in fact, this is His intention in allowing evil. He wants you to know the fear of the Lord. Rest assured that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil, both in the world at large and specifically in your life.

Psalms were written for the purpose of leading the nation in worship. This is another intention of God in allowing evil: to make us better worshippers. It is inappropriate to give God a review on how He is running His universe. When we don't understand, we can either raise a fist or bow the knee. How did David urge us to respond to evil?

Replace Emotion with Wisdom

Our first response to circumstances or people we do not like is often emotional, not well thought out. Two emotional responses to evil are addressed in Psalm 37:1. The first is fretting. The Hebrew word for "fret" shows that this emotion is rooted in anger. David's solution for this emotion is simply: Stop it! (See verse 8.) It is God's job to be righteously indignant. It is not our luxury to remain angry, even at evil.

The second response David addresses is envy. This emotion is an ill will based on someone else's perceived advantage. We can become jealous of wrongdoers' apparent intellectualism or artistic reputation. Envy has cost the church a high price in doctrinal purity.

The emotional realm shows us where we are in our walk with the Lord. Who is really Lord of your life? Are you dominated by emotion or by the Spirit? Psalm 37 shows us that these natural emotions must be commanded, not coddled, excused, or rationalized.

We cannot just squelch such emotions. What must replace anger, fretting, and envy? David's answer is to consider the end (verses 9-10). In an eternal perspective, time truly will "heal all wounds." The influence of evil will fade and eventually be eliminated. The Old Testament saint looked to the end of life for this hope. The New Testament saint has a much more expansive view. King Jesus will come to rectify all wrongs, rule and reign the whole earth in righteousness. In our age, we can give the Gospel and see evil influence transferred to godly influence in the present!

Rely on the Lord

In the presence of evil, we need to trust in the Lord (Psalm 37:3). David didn't fight ideological battles, but in the face of evil, he focused on his relationship with God. This is another reason that God allows evil. He wants us to rely on Him and depend less on other crutches to make our lives sensible.

Among many names for the Lord, David chose to use the personal name Jehovah. This expressed the special relationship between God and His people. If you are going to trust God, you need to know Him. Knowledge is the engine of trust.

The second imperative in verse 3 is "do good." This is also God's intention for us when we are touched by evil. Don't walk away from God's people or grow cold in your service.

David rehearsed the promises God had given to the Israelite covenant community when he said, "dwell in the land." We can do the same with the promises God has given us as believers. Do not become embittered or count your woes. Rejoice in what you already have and are. Our task as Christians is to grow our of sin and become masters at the repair of life.

Faithfulness has always been the gold standard for Christians, not success or perfection or a quantifiable amount of spiritual fruit. The person who faithfully discharges their duties to God, family, and church meets that gold standard of simple faithfulness. We should seek to define our lives in terms of faithfulness, not greatness.

Psalm 37:4 contains another instruction: "Delight yourself in the Lord." Real joy is found in the person of Christ, not places or things or ideas. Who will you ultimately entrust your life to? Who controls the way you think, feel, and act? God intends evil to help us determine who and what we are truly committed to.


If you do the things above, you will become a godly cultural participant. You will have influence and be vindicated as you desire, when you do not make it your primary goal (verse 6). God makes you salt and light when you focus on obeying Him in the midst of evil.

Commit, trust, dwell, and delight in Him -- this is how God intends you to respond to evil. How will you choose to respond?

Application Points

  • Sometimes we don't understand the evil that God allows in the world or in our own lives. At those times, we can choose either to raise a fist to God or bow the knee. How do you respond to evil in your life? Are you willing to respond how God desires?
  • It is God's job to be righteously indignant. We are not given the luxury of remaining angry, even at evil. Do you hold on to anger? How can you more progressively obey God's command to not remain angry?
  • Do you trust God? Do you know Him? Whether you've known a person for a week or a decade, there is always more to learn. How can you get to know God more?
  • When your life is touched by evil, God wants you to concentrate on your relationship with Him. Don't be distracted by counting your woes, but focus on your spiritual health. What tools and resources do you already have? Start by meditating on passages like Ephesians 1 and 2 Peter 2. The blessings listed in these passages are not exaggerated; they are true!
  • How do you measure your life? Do you evaluate yourself in terms of greatness or faithfulness? How can you change your perspective to mirror what God values?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • John 4:21-24 - God's desire is to make us worshippers.
  • James 1:19-20, Ephesians 4:26-27, Romans 12:19 - The New Testament commands are given to harness anger, not allow it.
  • Psalm 90:12, Hebrews 11:24-27, Genesis 50:20, Daniel 6:5-10 - Old Testament saints' eternal perspective in the face of evil.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms"

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.