A Good Night’s Sleep
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!You have freed me when I was hemmed in and relieved me when I was in distress;Be gracious to me and hear [and respond to] my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my honor and glory be [turned into] shame?How long will you [my enemies] love worthless (vain, futile) things and seek deception and lies? Selah. But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself [and dealt wonderfully with] the godly man [the one of honorable character and moral courage—the one who does right].The Lord hears and responds when I call to Him. Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin;Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still [reflect on your sin and repent of your rebellion]. Selah. Offer righteous sacrifices;Trust [confidently] in the Lord. Many are saying, “Oh, that we might see some good!”Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord. You have put joy in my heart,More than [others know] when their wheat and new wine have yielded abundantly. In peace [and with a tranquil heart] I will both lie down and sleep,For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety and confident trust.
How well are you sleeping? Do you find, along with David and Job, that there are hurtful seasons when you toss and turn the whole night long? Is it possible to reach the calm and repose reflected in Psalm 4?
If you are yet in the first flush of a hard experience, Psalm 4 holds encouragement. The wrecking ball of life may have demolished what you thought was safe and secure, but God intends to give you strength to rebuild. Psalm 4 finds you in the rebuilding process where gaping holes still exist, but enough damage has already been repaired by the Lord to make you confident of the final result.
True the pain is still there. That’s why David begins the psalm saying: “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
David in this psalm describes a time of distress. That word, “distress” carries the idea of being in a very tight place with very little wiggle room, room to turn around or maneuver. Penned in and pinned down and there seems to be no escape from your difficulties. In those moments, David shows us what we need to do- call upon the Lord. It’s hard, though, to keep your attention solely on God when what put you in that place is clamoring for attention.
David’s pain had come from the actions of others he didn’t deserve the treatment he was receiving. No doubt that describes our situation, for we live in a world where we often find ourselves in distress due to the actions of others. It’s especially difficult to manage when we don’t deserve being treated the way we are. Had David’s and our injurers really known God and been close to Him, they wouldn’t have acted unjustly. These pushed him away but God held him close. Our sole consolation may be that when those we love push us away, the Lord has drawn even closer to you.
Like David, we have to come to grips with our hard feelings against those who wound us. Like David, our anger surfaces when we think about them and perhaps we rehearse what we would say to them. As David lay down to sleep, his memory threatened to keep him awake. As he struggled to gain control over his rage and hurt, he made a foundational decision. Rather than continuing to focus on how others had acted, he focused on he need for change in his own life.
George Wood says, “You cannot change the other person, nor can you change the events which brought you harm, but you can take responsibility for your attitudes, cease thrashing and stirring and do the right thing.”
As David put this into practice, things didn’t seem to get better at first, but the more he gave himself to it the brighter the day became.
George Wood continues, “What you need in the darkness of despair is not the changing of your circumstances but light to see the face of Jesus.” Let us remember that as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked over the waves, but when he focused on the waves, he begin to drown. Our lesson is to strive at all times to keep our eyes on Christ, even in the darkness of distress.
David learned the even when life had stripped him of much, it hadn’t been able to strip away the presence of God. And that will always be true for us.
George Wood says, “Sleep will come when you realize that your happiness is greater than the external laughter of those who wounded you. Spiritual growth comes as you pour out your heart to the Lord. Through prayer you move from ‘distress,’ the ‘tight’ place where you are squeezed in to the ‘safety’ where you can stretch out and sleep. Prayer does more than change things. It changes you.”
Dr. John Thompson