But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. (Ps. 3:3–5)
Loss of sleep is a common result of anxiety. We toss and turn, upset by what happened today and worried about what tomorrow might bring. Overdue bills. Relational conflict. Results of a family member’s CT scan. Whatever the cause of our upset, anxiety is a thief. But there’s a way to arrest what robs you of a good night’s rest.
King David penned today’s psalm when his son Absalom was leading a coup to seize David’s throne (see 2 Sam. 15). In the grip of fear, after having fled Jerusalem, somehow the man after God’s own heart “lay down and slept.” How is that possible? His prayer in this psalm answers that question. It reveals three unchangeable truths that can act as spiritual sleep aids when you, in confident faith, entrust yourself to the Lord’s safekeeping.
God surrounds you like a shield. Absalom’s cunning deception and smooth speech turned David’s peaceful reign into wartime terror. Dissenters mocked him and God’s so-called protection of him. But he prayed, “You, O Lord, are a shield about me” (v. 3). When your circumstances become fertile ground for fear to flourish, you need to follow David’s example. Make a decisive shift in your focus from the attacks and accusations of the wicked to rock-solid truths about God. Fight fear with a greater fear—the fear of God. He is the invisible shield surrounding you.
God sustains you by your sleep. David’s childlike trust in God as his protector led him to earnest prayer: “I cried aloud to the Lord” (v. 4). And God answered. He provided sleep for the rehabilitation of David’s weary mind and body. God will do this for you, too. If you follow David’s example of earnestness in prayer, his testimony can become yours: “I lay down and slept; I woke up, for it is Yahweh who keeps supporting me” (v. 5). In a footnote to verse 5, Motyer provides an alternate translation of that last phrase as “the Lord my pillow!” David rested in God and rested on God. This sustained rest then led him to greater confidence: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (v. 6).
God secures you with his salvation. David knew that no matter what his enemies might do to him, God would always get the final word. Ultimately it was the Lord who would “strike” down his enemies and “break the teeth of the wicked” (v. 7). Striking the cheek signifies rebuke, and breaking their teeth signifies God’s rendering his enemies harmless in the end. In God’s hands, enemies of his children are toothless tigers who may cause a lot of pain and trouble but ultimately cannot harm the ones whom God protects. All this leads to David’s triumphant conclusion in the last verse: “To Yahweh belongs salvation!” and “Upon your people your blessing!” (v. 8).5
Remember: God watches over those who belong to him. Though he may lead you through dark valleys and deep waters, the Lord is always with you. Do not be afraid. Look to him. Say to yourself, “Go back to bed, my soul. Lie down and sleep. For the Lord is on my side.”
[Excerpted from ANXIETY: Knowing God’s Peace – a 31-Day Devotional]