What keeps you up at night?

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February 10, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 4
Phil Wagler,

What keeps you up at night? Your kids? Your bank account? Church problems? Your fears? Your enemies? Your self-justifications? Your habits? Your faults? Other people’s faults? Your hopes and goals?

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). So, does this mean God doesn’t love me if I can’t sleep? Now there’s another reason to lie restlessly staring at the ceiling!

But Psalm 127 begins with a declaration: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” The point seems to be that a good sleep is directly related to who we know is in charge. As I lie in my bed, enveloped by the dark, the silence screaming, I am often in a war for control.

Who are those the Lord loves? Well, technically of course, God loves everyone. That’s elementary Sunday school, my dear Watson. God spreads his love lavishly and indiscriminately. And yet, God is relational and not just theory. So, the fullest experience of the love of God is not knowing or even Facebook-liking the idea of God as love, but living in fellowship, in friendship, in trusting dependence on him as our Heavenly Father. Love breeds trust and casts out fear. Hence, the sleep of Psalm 127 is entwined with this kind of love, and trust is the pillow I sink myself into.

So, back to that midnight war for control. The things that keep us up are often rooted in our unwillingness to relinquish control. Further, they are the result of our hesitancy to receive the love of God, trust his good hand and let him be the builder.

“If we are honest with ourselves,” writes Scott Rodin, “we will be able to trace our stress, fear, anxiety and despair directly back to those things over which we pretend to play the owner and desire to have control.” Do you need to be this honest?

Have you read that peculiar story where Jesus is asleep in the boat in a raging storm? The storm caused seasoned fishermen to panic and wonder whether their Master had a caring bone in his body. The disciples wake him and Jesus calms the storm—essentially telling the waves to quiet down and get back to bed. This is often seen as the miracle. And it is. But it seems equally miraculous that Jesus was having a healthy, carefree snooze when his life was a constant target of spiritual darkness. How could it be? Though he is the son of God he is not anxious, fearful, or despairing. He seems, in fact, to be resting in Psalm 127. The Father who loved him was building something and he could rest.

This is evidenced throughout the gospels. Jesus walks through a crowd of opponents. Even the temptation of the Devil required a more opportune time. Jesus knew who was in control, and he lived in the loving trust of the Father, even when suffering eventually came. And, when post-resurrection he says to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18), he is underlining his divinity and calling us to trust and obey the one who owns it all and builds still.

So, what’s keeping you up?  Perhaps the real question is: whom do you trust?

Phil Wagler has had lots to keep him up at night as a father, ministry leader and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He’s learning to surrender and he’s sleeping much better (phil_wagler@yahoo.ca).

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