Do you ever have trouble falling asleep at night when some worry or fear or trouble keeps running around in your mind? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts jumping around inside of you?
In Psalm 4 we discover that David also experienced trouble sleeping at night. On the night be composed this psalm his mind was troubled by various matters, so in the psalm he pleads with God to relieve his stress; he laments the shame that people have brought upon him; he grapples with the anger that has stirred up in him that could incite him to sin; and he acknowledges the despair that surrounds him, recognizing that many were asking, “Who can show us any good?” According to Jewish tradition, David wrote this psalm while he was fleeing from his son Absalom who led an armed rebellion against David. (Some of us have been kept awake at night because of worries over our children, but not many people have gone through an armed rebellion from their children.)
What did David do to get through his restless night?
Psalm 4 reveals two key things David did:
#1: He poured out his heart to God.
In verse 4 he offers this counsel: “When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” When we lie on our beds at night, unable to sleep, we should search our hearts. What’s troubling me? What’s keeping me awake? What am I worried about? What do I feel guilty about? We should search our hearts and pour out our hearts to God.
We might not put our words together in as poetic a way as David does, but that doesn’t matter. John Bunyan once remarked, “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” Another time he said, “The best prayers have often more groans than words.” So don’t worry about how well phrased your words are, just pour out your heart to God.
When you genuinely pour out your heart to God, God will come near to you, because God cares and God is genuine, so God always responds with care when we are genuine with Him. As 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
#2: Express your thankfulness to God.
In verse 7 David rejoices, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” The discipline of gratitude turns our minds from stress to joy, and from anxiety to peace.
Brother David Steindl-Rast points out, “The root of joy is gratefulness…. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” The same can be said about gratitude and peace: It is not peace that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us peaceful.
By practicing these two exercises (pouring our your heart to God and expressing your thankfulness to God), you might be able to say with David what he says in the last verse of this psalm, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.