Rest

shutterstock_372459130.jpg

I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.  

- Psalm 4:8

Every night, 365 days a year, the brothers at SSJE chant Psalm 4 together during the Compline service before heading off to sleep.  I've heard them chant it so often that whenever I hear it I start to become relaxed - even sleepy.  It is a short and simple psalm of profound trust that assures us that even during tense or stressful times, we're resting in God's strong embrace.  Here is how it starts:

Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; *
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

There's nothing like having a little chat with God before turning out the light.  It's like asking an assuring grandparent to come and tuck you in.  Then in Verse 2, the psalmist puts these words into God's mouth:

"You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; *
how long will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?"

That's like the loving grandparent reminding us not to fret over things that do not matter - to refocus our attention and re-adjust our priorities to what is really important at the end of the day.  Then in the next verse, the psalmist assures us:

Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.

God always hears us - we just have to remember to talk - or, in other words, to pray.  Verses 4 and 5 give simple instructions to help us remember how prayer helps us let go of the upsets of day and re-orient ourselves once again to God:

Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.

Basically, it's saying, remember that God is God, and we are not God.  "Right size" yourself and do not sin. Listen closely for God whispering to you deep in your heart.  Stick with your spiritual disciplines and give the rest over to God.  

If you're feeling grumpy or resentful at the end of the day, verse 6 helps you adjust your attitude.  It describes how people so often complain and wish for things other than what they have.

Many are saying, "Oh, that we might see better times!" *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.

This describes how people often pray only to ask God for God's good favor:  But verse 7 reminds us that even when things are tough and we don't get the earthly riches we may want, there is deep reward in the ability just to rest in God's presence, maybe especially when things are stressful:

You have put gladness in my heart, *
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

Remembering to gratefully trust in God every night before you go to bed is a good way to not go to bed angry or resentful.  My favorite verse is the last one, verse 8:

I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.  

Psalm 4 is a wonderful psalm to read and ponder every night because as St. Augustine once said, "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you."

Our readings for this Sunday are HERE