In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
In a week filled with rain and thunderstorms, I am sure that many of us were jolted awake at some point by the crash of thunder or the streak of lightning all too close for comfort. In that moment of surprise, and maybe (if we are honest with ourselves) fear, were we reminded of similar moments in our childhood? Did we remember the times that we awoke to thunder and lightning, afraid, and in our fear and uncertainty running to the only source of comfort and security we knew—our parents?
Thunder wasn't the only thing that sent us running. We ran from nightmares, monsters in the closet or under the bed, strange noises, and annoying siblings. Our parents' bed was the place of safety where neither monsters nor thunder could reach us.
But somewhere along the way we lost that safety. We grew older, and most of us became parents ourselves—becoming a haven for our own frightened children. Yet we have nowhere to run. The sleepless nights persist, and the fear remains; the only thing that has changed is the source of the fear. It is no longer thunder, monsters, or nightmares. Rather, we worry about our jobs; we are afraid that our savings will run out or disappear. We fear that our kids will stop loving us, stop coming to us; that they will not get into college or into the right college. We worry that our spouse no longer loves us, that our house will never sell, that the cancer will win this time. Peace and safety seem as unattainable as a good night's sleep.
In the sermon on Sunday, we learned that we should not let anxiety (along with attacks and anger) ruin our faith. But what does it really mean to be free from anxiety? How can David sleep in peace and safety? It certainly isn't his situation. As Tim talked about on Sunday, this Psalm, like the previous one, was probably written while David was on the run from his own son. David was forced from his home and city; betrayed by his family and some of his closest advisors. Everything that David could have been relying on for safety had been ripped away: his position, his power, his wealth, and his relationships. Yet still we find David making this audacious claim-he can rest in peace and safety. What does David know that we have forgotten?
When we were young, we ran to our parents' bed for safety. It was not that the bed was much different than ours, or that their room was much farther away from the storm. It was the comfort of their presence: the sense that they were with us. It was the assurance of their power-everything would be all right. Nothing could reach us in our father's arms. But we grew older, and that security was taken away as our parents were revealed as people who could fail us and who could not fix everything. At that point, the world became a bigger and scarier place. Our naive sense of security was stripped away, and we were left to create peace and safety however we could manage. But we aren't good at that, are we? As David's story and our own illustrate, all the things we run to or build up for security can be stolen just as easily as our childhood security. Knowing that, we are left in the ironic position of worrying about the things that we established to keep us from worrying.
Where does that leave us? How can we get to where David is? It is in the little phrase in the above verse: "For You alone..."? David is saying that we got it right as children. We knew intrinsically that the place to go for safety was to the only person or persons who could provide it. There is a reason why God reveals Himself so often as Father in scripture. Our earthly parents are pictures of our heavenly Father, the one and only source of true safety and lasting peace.
What are the thunderstorms in your life? What is keeping you awake at night? Will you continue to look to yourself and your self-built structures for peace and safety? Or will you run to your Father's arms? "For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."