Asaph Didn’t Have Zz-quil

Have you ever had sleepless nights? Join the club of millions who have suffered in the same way… worry and anxiety have a way of creeping into bed with us and dominating our minds when we ought to be sound asleep. We generally don’t struggle with the demons of discouragement and fear when we’re sitting on the back porch having coffee, or out for a brisk walk. Those things tend to ease the mind and put it in a better place. But somehow the evil one works overtime when the darkness falls. It’s also more prevalent as we age. Go figure! One would think that the more seasoned the saint, the less likely the mind would wander to worry. After all, we’ve been years growing in God's grace and experiencing his wonderful presence. How could or would a believer of 50 plus years fall prey to such a simple tactic? Having been in pastoral ministry for some 4 decades and having been an inhabitant of earth for 64 years, I know it’s true. Pulling from enough conversations and from my own wayward, sometimes fearful mind, I know the evil one has a field day here.

An author of scripture named Asaph seems to know this conflict all too well. I was reading Psalm 77 recently. Listen to these excerpts:

“When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted…. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak…. Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
An inspired Asaph is pouring out his heart about sleeplessness and wondering if God has maybe forgotten to be merciful. Wow… this really is nothing new! Maybe we’re not alone. He’s writing at least 3,000 years ago! What was keeping him up? What was rolling over in his mind? Was it anxiety, fear, family stuff? We really can’t know but we can be sure of this, the evil one was working him over and causing him to question the goodness of God.

The psalm takes a positive turn in verse 10 with this phrase: “then I thought...” He began to think differently! He begins to reflect on history, how God has worked on behalf of his people. He recounts the wonders and goodness of God and how he led his people: “Though your footprints were not seen.“ I love that phrase… even though we can’t see him, we know he leads, provides, delivers, and blesses us!

I’m working on this. As your pastor I wish I could say that I’ve got this nailed down. I don’t. But I wholeheartedly resonate with Asaph that the answer is always right thinking. Worry, fear, anxiety... sort of an evil trinity. They rob us, don’t they? Rob us of sleep, time, joy, and peace. My go to is scripture, prayer, and simply reflecting on how good our God has been to me and our family, and our church, and throughout history! It’s the only path I’ve found to rebuffing the evil one who wants to crowd our minds with the worries of this world.

I think of Isaiah 26:3 “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, he whose mind is stayed on thee.”

Keep me there, Lord!

Pete Nelson