With this blog, I want to share with you my journey in Walking with God through the Psalms. The practice of memorizing Psalms has nurtured my soul and has been a “. . . light to my feet, and a lamp to my path.” In this series of blogs, I will share how I have learned to walk with God with a Psalm in my heart.
All quotations from the Bible in this series are from the New International Version.
The Psalms, while poetry, are full of problems and concerns of daily life, and give us practical guides in how to overcome them. I want to begin this series with Psalm 4, which speaks to something we all face from time to time in life, sleeplessness. In this Psalm, David ends with a prayer, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” To be able to lie down and sleep in peace is something we all wish for but it does not always happen. Tossing and turning in bed at night is an all too often occurrence.
In Psalm 4, David is in distress and is looking for answers. “Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer (v.1).” David refers to two kinds of distress in his life. One is in verse 2, which is opposition from other people. He speaks of people who turn God’s glory into shame, love delusions, and seek false gods.
Throughout his reign, David constantly faced opposition. Even after King Saul’s death, only Judah recognized him as king. For over six years, the rest of the tribes of Israel followed Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, and Abner, commander of his army. When he did become king of the whole nation, he was constantly fighting neighboring nations. Two of his sons tried to dethrone him; Absalom almost succeeded. There was so much blood shed in his life, God did not allow him to build the temple. So in this Psalm David asks God, “. . . give me relief from my distress.”
While few of us face people who want to kill us, opposition can come from family members, coworkers, and neighbors. Sometimes the source of opposition lies within us, with feelings of resentment, envy, and jealousy. Whether external or internal, this kind of distress churns inside of us and affects our sleep.
Another type of distress in this Psalm is in verse 6: “Many, Lord, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?” I think the lack of prosperity here refers to our overall wellbeing, to dissatisfaction with life. There are times in our life when we feel like we are just going through the motions. We lack energy, our job is just work, and life does not bring us satisfaction.
David shares with us two ways in which he responds to distress in his life. One, in verse 4, he writes, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” In the quiet of the night, when anxious thoughts play over and over in our mind, he calls us to search our hearts and silence our minds. One way to search our heart, is to search through our emotions and identify what is causing our anxiety. Name it; that will narrow down the flow of anxious thoughts to a word or phrase that crystalizes the source of our anxiety. Then, as verse 5 says, offer it up like a sacrifice to God. Turn it over to Him, ask Him to take control, and trust Him to do it. “. . . and trust in the Lord (4:5b).”
A second way that David responds to distress is in the second part of verse 6 and verse 7, “. . . Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy like when their grain and new wine abound.” Instead of letting our anxious thoughts play on an endless loop in our mind, we can focus our thoughts on God, letting the light of His face shine on us. We know Him, and can be in His presence, when we meditate on His Word. By memorizing Scripture we can repeat it over and over, letting it permeate our mind and heart instead of our anxious thoughts. Let God’s Word replace the endless loop of anxious thoughts.
When we lie on our bed tossing and turning with anxious thoughts, David shares with us how he searches his heart and silences his mind, and focuses on God’s presence, letting God’s face shine on him. As we walk with God and David, we can name the causes of our distress, offer them as a sacrifice, and meditate on Scripture to let God’s face shine on us. Then, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”