He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalm 121:3-4 ESV)
I gently put the sleeping silky-skinned baby onto the soft pink sheets inside her white crib. I quietly latched the baby gate at the top of the stairs and descended, sliding from side to side down the steps, trying to avoid the creaks left by time and wear. A few hours passed by as she slept silently. As the summer night wore on, the dark air cooled, the breeze whirred slightly in between the trees and I headed toward my own soft bed. Enveloped in a white down comforter, the perfect companion to an unusually cool summer evening, I had just slipped into the first stage of sleep. A bleating cry, sad, disoriented, and persistent, blared out of the white monitor on my dresser. I headed back up the stairs, heedless of the creaking floorboards, stumbled through the baby gate and gathered the crying lump up into my arms. For the next hour or so, I attempted various methods of bribing her back into dreamland. For the next hour or so, she fought sleep, and for the next hour or so, I wondered why sleep must be so elusive. I grumpily thought I was the only person in the universe awake when I really wanted to be snuggled under my white down, sleeping, turning an unconscious wall to the world.
Sleep is a business in our world. There are sleeping medications, noise machines, customized mattresses and pillows, sleep studies, sleep labs, sleep research, sleep recommendations and guidelines according to age.
We lose sleep for a variety of reasons, some self-inflicted, some understandable battles with insomnia or anxiety, losing sleep because a baby or child is awake. Some reasons seem controllable, many are not. Our minds and bodies are crowded ballrooms of twirling thoughts and actions. Rest is the ever elusive suitor who dodges behind plants and doors and evades our embrace far too often.
As I held the crying, squirming baby in the dark night, the words of Psalm 121 came to my mind. “…he who keeps you will not slumber.” A parent is often the lucky recipient of the sleep deprivation prize. Some of us never sleep well after we have children. The baby may sleep through the night, but we do not rest fully, knowing there are others in our house or care to think about.
The darkness of that night was a shadowy reminder that God never sleeps. Our children do not realize that they are interrupting our coveted sleep because we appear at their bedside for them, when they cry. To them, they are not interrupting. To them, we are always there for them.
In similar fashion to our children, we do not interrupt our God. He is there for us when we cry. At any hour, in any time zone, anywhere, and everywhere, our God is awake, listening to the voices He created. He is coming to our aid, responding to our cries, receiving our joy, hearing our jumbled prayers that pour out from crowded minds and noisy hearts.
He has created us to sleep and at the same time has given us children to care for through sleepy nights. As we wake in the night, our lack of sleep underlines our great needs. We recognize that God our Father is by our side, without slumber or sleep. He is our rest, without needing rest. Only a perfect parent could be this complete. Only an eternal Father could be a perfect parent. We stumble and struggle and hope to not fall down stairs while holding a baby. We sit in the dark, bleary eyed, hearing the tick tock of a second hand propelling us closer to the start of a new day. We dread the dawn when sleep has eluded us. But God is not caught off guard by our neediness. He watches over each of us and our tired rivers of thoughts, as we do our children, without a thought for His own rest.
“…He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The nations fight. God does not slumber or sleep. He hears the cries. He ordains the kingdoms of Earth, He raises up leaders and sets down leaders. Without pausing for a rest, He sees His royal priesthood of believers, the Christians displaced from their homes, those who are persecuted, those who live in peace, those who worry over the future, those who worship in safety and in danger, those holding their own babies in the dark of the night, those awake praying for their children in the small hours of the morning. He does not slumber or sleep as He holds us in His care.
“Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,” God is our rest for us. The rest that needs no rest. Because of the Cross, because of our adoption into God’s family, we can have strength through unrest because He is our rest. We can sleep because He is our rest. The Cross takes away our fear, it removes our loneliness in the night. Through the darkest hours, we have a Father- who does not sleep.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8;