I lie in bed awake. It is late. The dark of night has encompassed me. But I cannot sleep. My thoughts are troubled. I try to sort out the troubles that fill my heart, but it is most difficult. Where shall I find rest?
There are a number of reasons why I am troubled. Christmas and New Year’s have come and gone. Life was so busy during those days as well as the days and weeks previous to them. Everyone it seems gets caught up in the fast pace, hurry-up nature of the holiday season. At Christmas it is hurry up to the shopping malls; buy some gifts, very often some last-minute gifts; decorate the Christmas tree; listen to songs of “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” with a little bit of “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger” thrown in for good measure. On New Year’s Eve everyone is ushering in the new year. They think about what the new year will bring, hoping it will be better than the last one. The last one was not so good, and so they drown their sorrows in drink as they look to the future.
This has an effect on me. It is almost overwhelming. Something is not right! In fact it is definitely all wrong. It is wrong for the throngs at Christmas to get all caught up in their worldly merry making and attempt to sanctify it with a few Luke 2 readings and religious carol singings. It is wrong for the masses to drink in the new year and drown their sorrows in drink. But it is equally wrong and in fact even more wrong for me to find myself swept along with such wrongness. I know better. But again this year, at least to some degree, I did get swept along. I am troubled!
But another reason which added to my troubles was a phone call which I had received. A friend of mine received the news that he had an incurable illness. He does not have much longer to live. I love my friend. He and I had walked down life’s pathway a long time. We went through many things together. But now it seems the Lord is going to take him from this life and the vanity of this life. I am troubled!
Vanity! That word lingers in my mind. Solomon wrote exactly that concerning this life a long time ago. And what he wrote then is just as true for today. This life is vanity. There is no real meaning or purpose to this life. This life is not an end in itself. How can it be? This life is filled with sin. Wickedness abounds. This life is filled with death. It is nothing but a continual death. This life is filled with turmoil, never ending turmoil. There is no peace in this life, no rest!
How true that is for the ungodly. They are like the chaff which the wind driveth away, the Psalmist said. They are here for but a little time, and then they are gone. They labor—buying, selling, and getting gain. They eat and drink, seeking tranquility in such things. But all their labors and all their eating and drinking get them nothing. For they perish! All their Christmas shopping and all their vain carol singing, and even all their pious talk about the baby Jesus get them nothing. All their “happy new year’s,” which they can scarcely utter because they are so saturated with alcohol, get them nothing. They vainly think that a man’s life consists in the abundance of the things he possesses. They foolishly are like another fool who thought the same way. They show their folly by talking about the baby Jesus at Christmas but forget that it was that same Jesus Who said that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things he possesses. If a man seeks these things, he will die with those things. His soul is required of him.
But how about me and my friend? My friend is dying too. Where is the rest for my friend and me? As I meditate on this question on my troubled bed, my thoughts turn to another person who meditated on his bed also. There was such a person, wasn’t there? Yes, there was! He was the Psalmist David. I must find where David talks about himself meditating on his bed. I get up out of bed and, taking my Bible in hand, turn toPsalm 63. There are the words! My eyes fix themselves on what David says in verses 6 and 7; “when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches. Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.”
Therein lies the answer to all my troublesome thoughts: “When I remember Thee upon my bed.” What have I done? I have been remembering all sorts of things. But the one thing in all the world I should have been remembering, that I have not. “Thee,” my God, I must remember. I must meditate upon God, the God of my salvation. Oh, what a God I have! He is the all-powerful, sovereign God. All things are in. His hands. He determines all things, and to the smallest detail accomplishes all the things He determines. Nothing happens by chance, or stands outside of His control. That means that my life too is in God’s hands. He directs my life. “My hand is in Thy hand,” I hear myself singing upon my bed. In all my doubts and temptations, in all the turmoil and trouble that fills my heart, my hand is in God’s hand for He cares for me. Yes, He does! So great was His care for me that He saved me. He performed the work which I could never have performed. He entered into the world of this night—my weary night of sin and death. He took upon Himself my sin and the curse due to me for my sin. His soul was troubled even unto death with a kind of trouble that I do not know nor will I ever know, that of the wrath of God. He, by His bearing of the wrath of God, gave me rest and says to me to come apart in this dry and thirsty land where no water is and rest awhile.
I must do that! In the midst of this life of vanity I must rest in the rest that He has given me. Christmas is past, but tonight I must go back to Christmas day. I must journey once again to Bethlehem and see the rest that is His gift to me. I must not go to the shopping malls. There is no rest there. But to Bethlehem I must go! Whom do I see? I see Jesus, my Savior, my Lord and my God! I see my Christ to Whom I belong so entirely that without His will not a hair can fall from my head. And I am helped! Just to look at my Savior stills my troubled heart. I look at Him with the eyes of child-like faith and trust, and I know that all is well.
Well for me! Well for my friend! Not well for the world. Though my friend and I are certainly no better or one whit more deserving than the throngs of this wicked world, I know that there is no rest for them. For them this life shall ever be endless vanity and labor. They will continue to make a mockery of Christmas and continue to drown their sorrows in drunkenness, but no rest will they find. And after this life is over and they perish, still no rest will they have. They will awake in eternal labor and trouble.
But for my friend—to him belongs a rest, a rest that belongs to the people of God. He will die. But he will only awake from all his troubles and labors in the eternal rest that God prepares for him.
And well for me! Oh, to be sure, I must remain behind. My friend will leave me behind. He will go before me to be delivered from this dry and thirsty land and from the church militant to join those who have gone on before in the church triumphant. But though I remain behind in this dry and thirsty land, the Lord provides me with food and water and rest along the way. His Word is my food and drink. His light penetrates my darkness. It is true, as also it was for the Psalmist, “Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.”
Yes, I rejoice! Even in the night! Even as I lie upon my bed in the night in the midst of all my troubles, I rejoice. For I meditate upon God. I watch in the night watches. I look for Him to drive away my night, more than watchmen look for morning light! I know He will. The Babe of Bethlehem told me so. With that confidence I watch as a pilgrim looking to the future. What the future holds in store as far as all its details are concerned, I know not. But this much I know, all is well. And so I close my Bible, doing what the Psalmist said in another place, “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep for Thou Lord only makest me to dwell in safety.”