“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
I remember the first time that I lost sleep over something. I was in my last year of high school, and it was the night before I was scheduled to take the ACT exam—one of the requirements for applying to an American university. Before that evening, I don't recall ever knowing or experiencing the impact of anxiousness on sleep.
The next morning, I was forced to write a three-hour exam on one, maybe two, hours of sleep. It was terrible. If memory serves me well, the fatigue hit during the mathematics section (which, mind you, might have occurred regardless).
Ever since then, there have been seasons of life where I’ve needed to re-learn that the natural human function of sleep—let-alone peaceful sleep—is a gift for which to be grateful. An anxious mind can take a toll not only on one’s ability to rest, but also on one’s ability to live peacefully in the day-to-day.
When I was a Junior in college, struggling in a stressful season of sleeplessness, a friend gave me Psalm 4:8 written down on a small piece of paper. I held onto that paper for a long time, and likely still have it tucked away in a book somewhere.
But I remember initially reading it and feeling upset—even furious. Why would God not allow me to rest, especially when I seemingly needed it most?
I write this devotional on such a night, where the ability to sleep has evaded me and the fireplace in my living room has more comfort than the ‘safety’ of my pillow.
Across from me is a peace lily—which if you’re unaware, is a fairly low-maintenance house plant that occasionally blooms a white flower. For two years, I have yet to have one of these delightfully unpredictable flowers show up, and I have no idea why (apart from poor horticulture skills).
Yet tonight, as I sit across from my beauty-withholding lily, I see there is one now: a small white flower peaking through the dark green leaves. In the darkest month of the year, my peace lily has finally decided to spread some of its peace.
Where do we find peace in this season, which sometimes can feel just as sporadic and unpredictable? Where do we dwell in safety when sleep evades us and anxiety overwhelms us? Where must our minds be fixed when restlessness or disappointment creeps in?
The Psalmist, in the verse above, seems to imply that he is able to lie down and sleep peacefully because of the trust he has in his God, who keep him safe. Simply contemplating that reality—that he is held in the safety of his God, even in the darkest of seasons—enables him to rest.
Whether he sleeps or not, he dwells in the peace of his God. He depends on and finds his hope, not in the comfort of security or control, but in his God.
As we take on a posture of waiting and anticipating in this Advent season, may our hearts be re-oriented towards the One who knows all of our agitating aches. May we find our peace in the One who holds all things together.
And may we have confidence like the Psalmist, even in the most restless of nights, that true peace is found in the rest and safety of our Lord.
Prayer: Father God, You alone are the one who is able to grant us deep peace in this season of restlessness. Forgive us for our doubts and our ongoing striving for control. Ease the anxiousness in our hearts and minds. And may this Advent season point us towards the hope of Your coming—the hope of peace. Amen.