A few years back on the 4th of July, in a surge of supermom strength I decided to take my two older boys down to the Bay to see the fireworks. This may not sound like a superhuman feat, but for an introvert and one who gets slightly claustrophobic and anxious in crowds, it was akin to climbing Everest. As if braving the event itself was not enough, I decided we should take the trolley, San Diego’s fairly inefficient version of mass transit. You know, just for fun.
The 20-stop trip to the fireworks was charming; we waved our little flags, we chatted and had a grand time. The way home, not so much. We were shoved into the small trolley cars like sardines, a hot, sticky, cranky sea of sweaty humans. In the middle of this mass of humanity, a remarkable thing happened: my sweet 4-year old somehow fell asleep standing up. It seemed that, leaning on my leg, he felt secure enough to fall asleep in the midst of the craziness.
Yesterday, as I was studying the third Psalm, the striking contrast between my son’s peacefully sleeping face and the chaos surrounding him came to mind.
In this Psalm, David recounts his harrowing experience of being chased out of town by his own rebellious son in a military coup. As if fleeing into the wilderness for his life were not enough, to add insult to injury, David had the added pain and confusion of betrayal weighing him down. Stormy circumstances, indeed.
Yet, in the midst of the chaotic and confusing circumstances, David finds himself secure enough in the Lord’s presence to sleep.
“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I was crying to the Lord with mu voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”
The circumstances had not changed, but the hard-fought-for knowledge that God was a strong shield about him on every side lulled him to rest in “the sleep of holy confidence,” as Spurgeon called it.
The image of Daniel falling asleep in the presence of hungry lions also came to mind in regards to this particular psalm. I wish that Daniel had written a Psalm about his experience in a literal lion’s den, but God leaves it up to our imagination to picture what that long night was like for him. I imagine that after a few hours of desperate prayer, Daniel finally tucked up under the shield of God’s sovereignty and fell asleep. All we hear from Daniel directly about his sleepover with wild lions is “My God sent His angel and shut the lions mouths and they have not harmed me.”
When circumstances are less-than-favorable, when relationships are on edge, when resources seem scanty, we toss and turn and lose sleep as the wheels of our minds and hearts grind in overdrive. Biting our nails, we tend to think that peace will only be found if or when the circumstances are favorably altered. However, God offers sleep right in the midst stormy circumstances.
God offers peace in the form of a strong, steadfast leg on which we may lean and fall asleep in the midst the loud trolley rides of life.