It is 3:00 am and I am wide awake. I am physically exhausted, but my mind won’t shut down. Ever been there? Of course you have! We all have nights when sleep evades us. You would think that after a super busy day, all my mind and body would want to do would be to quickly fall asleep. Sadly, though, that is often not the case. A busy and stressful day often leads to a restless night.
My problem is not falling asleep, but rather staying asleep. I tend to wake up several times throughout the night (one of the challenges of getting older). That is when the problem begins. For some reason, a quick trip to the bathroom often turns into an hour or more of restlessness.
One anonymous writer documented the nightly conversation with his brain.
Me: “Please let me sleep!” Brain: “Nope, we have to stay up together and go over every bad life decision we have made so far.”
I can relate! I regularly live out the words of the English Poet Charlotte Bronte, who stated, “A ruffled mind makes for a restless pillow.” Even though I do everything physically and mentally possible to keep my mind turned off, it insists on turning itself on. Sometimes, I feel like there is a direct connection between my feet moving and my brain activating. Maybe the on/off switch to my brain in located in my feet?
Where can we find help for sleepless nights? Of course, our best remedy is not to watch television, surf the internet or even read a good book. Our best sedative is found in God’s Word.
The Psalms offer help for sleepless nights. For many people, the Psalms serve as God’s divine sedative for a troubled heart. The potent mixture of soothing poetry and the power of God’s Word has the ability to calm your anxious thoughts and to put your mind to rest.
Although many of the Psalms can serve as a night time tranquilizer, I believe that Psalms 3 and 4 provide the keys to a good night’s sleep. These “bookend” psalms were written by David during a time of personal struggle.
• The inscription before Psalm 3 tells us that David was on the verge of loosing his kingdom (Psalm 3:1). That is not the worst of it, though. The main conspirator was his own son Absalom. If that will not keep you up at night, I do not know what will.
• Like Psalm 3, Psalm 4 was composed during a time of distress (Psalm 4:1). Yet, in spite of deep personal pain, uncertainty and physical danger, David was able to sleep. Read these two tremendous testimonial verses…
Psalm 3:5 – I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord make me to dwell in safety.
How was David able to sleep when his son was rebelling against him? I cannot imagine anything more painful than the hurt and betrayal of one of your children. How could David lay down in peace when he was surrounded by the enemy?
Well, there are four words in Psalms 3 and 4 that give us an insight into the source of David’s restful sleep. Let’s take a deep dive into these two Psalms and gain some insight into how to sleep in the midst of a stressful situation.
Verses 1-2 establish the setting of this Psalm. David’s peaceful reign and united kingdom were suddenly divided by Absalom’s rebellion. Through his beautiful countenance, charm and cunning deception, David’s oldest son was able to steal the kingdom away from him. As a result, fear dominated David’s thoughts and he finds himself fleeing his palace and running for his life (See II Samuel 15:1-37).
As he lay outside, under the stars, surrounded by his enemies, and unsure if he would ever be able to return to his beloved Jerusalem, he wrote…
Psalm 3:3 – But you, O Lord, are a SHIELD about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.
The shield was a common Old Testament image that represented protection. It was a warrior’s best defense against the arrows and the blows of the enemy. The word “shield” is used repeatedly throughout the book of Psalms (3:3; 28:7; 33:20; 84:11) to represent God’s protection over His servants.
In this instance David is declaring his faith in God’s protection over him. Humanely speaking, he may be outnumbered, out strategized and out resourced, but with God as his shield, no one can touch him.
Psalm 3:5 – I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord SUSTAINED me.
The second word is “sustained.” It is an interesting term. It is used 48 times in the Old Testament and has a variety of meanings. It was the word Isaac used when he spoke of blessing Jacob (Genesis 27:37). It describes how the High Priest laid his hands on the sacrificial lamb (Leviticus 3:2,8,13; 4:4,15)
It was the term used when Moses laid his hands on Joshua and passed the mantel of leadership (Deuteronomy 34:9).
Here in Psalm 3, David is using the word differently. He is saying that God upholds him, supports him and sustains him. It is almost as if David is saying that He is sleeping in God’s supportive arms.
There is nothing more soothing for a child than to fall asleep in the arms of their mother or father. There is an overwhelming sense of peace, comfort and security. That is what David is describing in this verse. Although he is away from home, on the run, and fearing for his life. He is able to sleep soundly, for the Lord is “holding” him. Psalm 3:8 – SALVATION belongs to the Lord; Your blessings be on Your people! Selah
Verses 7-8 reveal David’s confident assertion of the Lord’s ultimate salvation. “Arise, O Lord” is military terminology. David is asking the Lord to fight on his behalf.
David could not win the battle alone. It was the Lord who would strike down David’s enemies; God would break their teeth. In God’s hands, they were nothing more than toothless tigers.
He knew that Absalom’s treacherous desire to usurp the throne could not be successful unless it was God’s will. David’s future was in God’s hands, not Absalom’s.
Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell (sleep) in SAFETY.
The final word is “safety.” Every night I check the doors of our home to make sure they are locked. I will even get out of bed to check them if I failed to do my nightly door check. In order for me to sleep peacefully, it is important to know that the house is secure.
David realizes that his ultimate safety is not because of the guards who are scattered around the camp, but rather in God who is there with him. David is not alone. God’s presence gives David a sense of confident security.
So, the next time you find yourself awake in the middle of the night, allow the inspired poetry of Psalms 3 and 4 to sedate you and calm your mind and heart. Remember that God is your shield, your sustainer, your salvation and your security. Focus your mind and heart on Him and remember He is present with you.