When You Can’t Sleep

When was the last time you had a bad night’s sleep? What was it that made it so bad? Was it bad dreams? You wake up in a cold sweat. Images and sounds race in your mind, and then you sit up. You remind yourself that it was just a dream. But even with that, you can barely shake off the emotions that seem to be swirling in your heart. Maybe its not bad dreams; perhaps, its physical pain. Every night is a hassle to crawl into bed. The various wounds and aches compound when you should are able to rest. Instead, you spend the night staring into the ceiling longing for the decency of an hour when you can sit up and distract yourself with coffee and something on a screen. Sometimes, rest seems impossible.

One of the great tools given to us by God to help us with our sleep is the psalms. Although many psalms are useful, one that stands out in Psalm 3. David began by being honest about the horror of his situation. David wrote, “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’” (Psalm 3:1-2 ESV) Notice that the very first word out of David’s lips is the name of God. You’ll notice that the word “LORD” is in all upper-case letters. This is no accident. This is how our text marks the sacred covenant name of God, the very name revealed to Moses by God from the burning bush. David’s first word is calling out to the covenant keeping God who does not forget His precious people.

So often, when we are overwhelmed by the wickedness of others or the failures of others we are tempted to turn every which way. But David was showing us right from the outset what are to do when our souls are drowning in sorrow and grief, in betrayal and the like. We cry out to God. I imagine many of you who’ve followed Christ have had moments where no words could be found to express your sorrow. Perhaps all you could do is cry out the name of Jesus. Today, we are invited to do the very same thing. All of God’s saving acts and covenant mercies are encapsulated in that simple word “LORD”.

The psalm continues. David clearly laid his heartbreak before God. David does not ignore his pain. He doesn’t lie to God. He names it with great specificity. Why does He do that? Only God can mend our hearts because he is our friend. There is nothing like a good friend. A friend like this is someone with whom you can bare your soul. They are someone who is willing to be there fore you in life’s hardest moments. God is such a friend.

God is indeed holy. He is righteous, just, and good. He cannot stand the sight of sin. But when we are washed in the blood and Spirit of Christ, He welcomes us to Himself. Such welcoming is without the fear of rejection because we are adopted into the family of God. A child cries out to their father in the middle of the night because they are scared. They don’t want to be alone. They know their dad will protect them, and take care of them, and make them know peace.

David cried out to God because he was a desperate man. Everyone had seemingly left him. David was abandoned, betrayed, and doesn’t even know if he is even going to survive the night. He even records one of the lies that must have haunted him as he lay in darkness, “many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.” (Psalm 3:2 ESV)

For many of us, this is where is our Psalm ends. We admit God’s presence in our hearts and lives, and that there are foes against us. We even obsess over their words, and maybe even begin to wonder, “Are they right?” But the psalm doesn’t end there, and it can’t end there for us.

God has not called you to live perpetually in despair and sorrow. God has not called you to be indefinitely fearful and desperate and forever branded by betrayal. He has called you to consider who He is.

Who is God to you today? How you answer that question reveals much about your own hearts. What did David say? “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD and he answered me from his holy hill.” (Psalm 3:3 ESV) God is my shield, my glory, and my restoration. These are powerful images that we have to learn to speak reflexively. This psalm is a prayer preserved for us by God that we may reflexively spit these words out as our sin or the Enemy leads us to restlessness. What is that prayer? “you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” (Psalm 3:3 ESV)

Our response to restlessness, betrayal, and fear is all the same: the unchanging faithfulness of our God who is always with us. He is not aloof and indifferent. He is an ever present help to those who call upon Him in the name of Christ.