Fret Not Because of Evil-Doers, by Charles Finney
Fret Not Because of Evil-Doers - a message by Charles Finney
In view of all the troubles and difficulties that are going on in the world today, it would be helpful to read this insightful message of Charles Finney, on the importance of avoiding worry and anxiety. A current definition of fret is “to be constantly or visibly worried or anxious.” While we are to do all the good we can in this world, God also wants His children to be free of anxiety. While Finney's message sometimes includes "old English," it is well worth the read.
“Fret not thyself because of evil doers.” — Psalm 37:1
by Charles Finney
Fretfulness is a state of mind the opposite of that meekness and patient
endurance which the gospel encourages for all believers. I shall show —
- WHY WE SHOULD NOT FRET BECAUSE OF EVIL DOERS. AND,
- HOW TO AVOID IT.
- WHY WE SHOULD NOT FRET
- Because, in fretting at the evil doing of others we do evil ourselves.
Many persons seem to think that they do well to fret when others sin: for
as much as they think it is right to manifest holy indignation and zeal for
the Lord of Hosts; and would say with Jonah, I do well to be angry. But
such persons ought to remember, that in fretting at others for their sins,
they are abusing God themselves. And surely this is a good reason why
they should abstain from fretting, if by so doing, they are but adding sin of
their own to that of the individual on account of whose sins they fret.
- Another reason why we should not fret because of evil doers is, that it
will do no good. It certainly can do us no good to fret. It cannot benefit
him at whom we fret. It does not tend to the glory of God, nor in any way
to the advancement of His kingdom. Why then should we fret?
- The third reason why we should not fret because of evil doers is, that it
will only add mischief to mischief. It will do us great evil; it will destroy
our own peace; it will break up our communion with God; it will quench
the spirit of prayer in our own hearts; it will bring us into condemnation; it
will destroy our confidence in God, and destroy our respect for ourselves;
it will in every way tend to the injury of our own souls.
Again, it tends to the injury of all who witness our fretting. It is a
stumbling block to them. And perhaps our fretting is a greater stumbling
block to them than the evil doing of those at whom we fret. Fretting at the
evil doing of others tends only to mischief. It is dishonorable to God, and a
manifest lack of confidence in Him. It tends in every way to the injury of
- If we manifest a sweet and patient spirit towards evil doers, it tends
greatly to do them good. It also tends greatly to prevent the harm of their
evil doing. If, when they do evil we do well, and manifest a Christian spirit,
our Christian character, in some measure at least, is a set off against
their evil doing. If they dishonor God by evil doing, and we highly honor Him by
the manifestation of a heavenly attitude, we do all we can to retrieve the injury
done to the kingdom of God by the evil-doer. His evil doing tends to stumble
those around him — our well doing in manifesting a heavenly attitude tends to
the removal of the stumbling block. Bystanders will say, to be sure here is one
that has done a great evil, but another has manifested so excellent a spirit in
view of it, as on the whole to strengthen my conviction of the necessity and
excellence of the religion of Jesus.
- Another reason why we should not fret is, that the evil doing is allowed
to occur under the providence of infinite wisdom and love. God has chosen
not to prevent it, but on the contrary to allow it rather than to change the
administration of His government, in such a manner as to prevent its
- Another good reason why we should not fret at evil doing is, because
provision is made to overrule it for the glory of God and the highest good
of His kingdom. “The wrath of man shall praise Thee, and the remainder of
wrath shalt Thou restrain.” All the evil in the universe has been taken into
account in the great plan of God for the promotion of the highest good.
He saw that in the wisest possible moral system all evil could not be
prevented: consequently what He could not wisely prevent He overruled
for His own glory. We can easily see in a great many instances, how God
does overrule, as a matter of fact, the most flagrant transgressions for the
promotion of His glory. Take the conduct of Judas in betraying Christ, and
the wickedness of Satan in that affair. These were among the most flagrant
transgressions the world ever saw, and yet they were instrumental in
laying the cornerstone of man’s salvation. God has taken occasion from
these transgressions highly to honor Himself and to benefit the universe.
Now although we cannot see the particular manner in which God does this
in every instance, yet we may rest assured that every sin that ever does
occur or ever can occur shall in some way be overruled for the promotion
of the glory of God. ...
- Another reason is, it is Satan’s plan to make us fret. He understands
very well the injury that we shall receive from it ourselves, and the great
evil of fretting is to the government of God. He is an enemy to human
happiness, and loves to disturb our peace. He loves to stumble others and
to see God dishonored; and understands full well that few things are more
hateful in the sight of God and destructive to all good than fretting. It is
therefore a prime object with him to promote as much fretfulness as
possible. But shall we gratify the devil?
- Another reason why we should not fret is, that the very evil doing at
which we fret, is often allowed in providence, as one of the means of
perfecting in us the grace of patience. Mother, did you ever consider that
the trying conduct of your children is often designed to perfect the grace of
patience in your soul? The Apostle says — “Brethren, count it all joy
when ye fall into diverse temptations, knowing that the trial of your faith
worketh patience: let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be
perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” The things at which we are so prone
to fret all occur under the government of God, and are all parts of those
means which God is using to perfect holiness within us.
- The evil doing of others affords a good opportunity to glorify God. If in
view of the evil doing of others, we manifest a God-like temper, this is
highly honorable to God. What can be more lively than for a man under
severe trials, to manifest the character of Christ? When did Christ Himself
ever shine more gloriously than under His severest trials? The character
which He manifested, was more glorious to God, and reflected more of the
divine beauty of His character, than was manifested perhaps under any
other circumstances. So when we are greatly tried with the evil doing of
others, God has given us an opportunity of manifesting most of the divine
character to the world around us.
- It manifests unbelief to fret. If we only realize that the hand of God is
concerned directly or indirectly in everything that occurs; if we firmly
believe this, we shall not fret at the occurrences around us. No man who
practically believes in the universal providence of God, will fret at the
occurrences around him any more than he would fret at God Himself. He
will perceive that fretting at these occurrences, is but fretting at God,
- Fretfulness is an expression of self-will. No man frets at what occurs
around him, if his will is swallowed up in the will of God. If a man has a
will of his own, and is set on having his own way, he will fret at anything
that crosses his path, and opposes his inclinations. But if his will is lost in
the will of God, he will recognize the universal providence of God, and
having no will of his own, he will sweetly submit to all the Providences
around him. ...
- It is un-Godlike to fret at evil doers. God never frets, and why should
we fret? And yet it concerns Him rather than ourselves, to resent
wickedness. If anybody is injured vengeance belongs to Him, and not to us.
But if He has good reasons for not fretting at what occurs , surely we
need not fret about it. ...
- Fretting destroys our own peace. Who does not know that the
indulgence of the least fretfulness instantly breaks up the peace of our
minds, brings a cloud over our spirits, and throws our souls into darkness?
What Christian does not know this by his own experience? It is remarkable
how easily our peace is destroyed. The least rising of impatience if
indulged but for a moment, brings the spirit into rough waters, stirs up the
sediment, and makes it for the time, like the troubled sea.
- Fretting is also destructive to the peace of others. A fretful man is a
great nuisance to all around him. Fretting seems to be contagious. If
parents fret at their children, the children are almost certain to fret in
return. If husbands fret at their wives, or wives at their husbands, the other
is almost certain to fret in return, and thus the peace of a whole household
will be continually destroyed by the wickedness of one fretful member.
- Fretting grieves the Holy Spirit. He will not live where there is a fretful
spirit. We are shocked and grieved if we go to a neighbor’s house and find
them in a fret. We feel embarrassed and uneasy, and if we find them out of
humor, we retire in distress and disgust. And will not the Holy Spirit be
grieved away and retire from us, if we allow ourselves to fret in His
- It is destructive to our influence to fret. A fretful person can have very
little Christian influence in any community. A fretful parent never governs
his family well. A fretful minister, a fretful neighbor, in short, anyone that
frets, destroys his Christian influence.
...Another reason why we should not fret is, God will take care of the
evil doers. The verse immediately following the text, says: “For they shall
soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” They are in
the hands of God. He will take care so to dispose of them, as to promote
His own glory. We need not therefore fret ourselves because of their evil
... Another reason why we should not fret at evil doers, is because they
are among the “all things that work together for good to them that fear
God.” How often can we see that the trials into which we fall, the
temptations of Satan, and the wickedness of men around us, are working
together on the whole, for our edification and growth in grace. We thus
learn many lessons which we could learn in no other way.
... Another reason why we should not fret is, the things at which we fret,
are not worth fretting about. By this I do not mean that the sins of evil
doers are not great and grievous sins, and in themselves greatly to be hated and
deplored; but I mean that on the whole, considering the overruling providence of
God and all the circumstances of the case, they are not worth fretting about. Did
we see the end from the beginning as God sees, we should no doubt see this to
be true. If they were worth fretting about, God would fret about them.....
... The last reason I will mention is, that fretting makes us the very sport
of Satan. .....And such an enemy is he to our peace, and to
our souls, as to take an infernal satisfaction in spending his leisure hours in
causing us to fret. He loves to throw us into a tempest of fretfulness, and
then tell it in hell, and excite a laugh in the infernal regions, at the fact that
we profess Christ, and yet are so easily provoked to fretfulness.
I COME NOW TO SHOW, HOW TO AVOID FRETFULNESS
Sink into the will of God. Acknowledge and consider the universal
providence of God. And know, that He is working all things after the
counsel of His own will. Sink therefore into His will and learn to be
sweetly and universally submissive. This is a sure antidote against
Have faith in the wisdom and benevolence of the providences of God.
Settle down with your whole soul on the truth that everything that does or
can occur, occurs under the direct or indirect control of infinite wisdom and
Be self-possessed. It is of great importance to cultivate the habit of being
calm and self-possessed, under the various trials with which we are
surrounded. It is often important not to allow yourself to speak a word till
you have had time to think, and lift up your heart to God in prayer.....By being
self-possessed I mean that a person should cultivate the habit of
considering the reasons why they should not be irritated by circumstances
Reflect much also upon the forbearance of God. I love to consider the
infinite calmness of the divine mind, in view of all the provocations which
He has to anger. His infinite patience, long-suffering and kindness to evil
doers, is what I love to consider.
.... Learn not to look altogether on the dark side of things; consider the
virtues as well as the vices of those around you. Dwell on the good and not
altogether on the bad qualities of those with whom you associate. It is a
dangerous thing for us to dwell too much on the evil doings of those
Remember that it is God and not you against whom sin is committed.
The government of the universe is not committed to you. The kingdom is
the Lord’s — all things are His. He has made all things for Himself — even
the wicked for the day of evil; and you need not by any means take on
yourself the responsibility of managing His affairs, nor allow yourselves
to fret because things do not go as you would have them. He will take care
to secure the plans of His own government, without your getting into a
passion about it.
.....Don’t allow yourselves to dwell much in thought on the evil doings of
those around you. If you are abused don’t dwell on it. Pray for the evil
doer and dismiss it from your thoughts, lest it be to you too great a
Pray for evil doers. You never can fret at a man for whom you are
sincerely and earnestly praying.
Labor to save their souls, and cultivate compassion toward them. If
you are deeply engaged in pulling them out of the fire, if you are exercised
with great love and compassion for their souls, you will not be apt to fret
Learn with the Psalmist to set the Lord always before you. Persons are
very apt to fret at little things when they would not at great events,
because in the less they see not, while in the greater they do see the
providence of God. .... Set Him always before you, and let your mind be filled
with the idea, that in everything that occurs, in some sense God is present.
......Lastly, learn to appropriate the grace of Christ to the complete
suppression of this sin of fretfulness. The providences that develop the
spirit of fretfulness, are designed to show us our weakness and the need of
the grace of Christ to perfect the grace of patience in us. That which you
need therefore, is to learn to lay hold on Christ in such a sense as to be
kept from the commission of this sin. The Apostle said — let us draw near
to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in
time of need.
....I love to reflect on the fact that God’s plan embraces all events,
that His plan is perfect, that He will do all His pleasure; that He can do all
His pleasure, that the wrath of man shall praise Him, and the remainder of
wrath He will restrain. That therefore we need not make ourselves
wretched and unhappy, and vex our souls on account of anything that
occurs in the universe, but compose our minds in view of it all, as God
composes His; concern ourselves to do our own duty, and not allow
ourselves to fret about the conduct of others. Let us try to reform them,
and try to do them good, pity and pray for them, but by no means allow
their evil doing to cause us to do evil, and to dishonor God. Always
remembering not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.
(AD 1792 – 1875)
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