Iam a father with young children, and (I’m sure other parents will agree) at this stage of life sleep is a luxury. Sleeping through the night is a rare occurrence, and the only benefit I can see from this season of sleep deprivation is that I’m immune to jet lag when I travel. But my children’s waking up at night is not the only reason that I lose sleep. I worry a lot. Sometimes I have a hard time falling asleep because I am thinking through some critical problem, trying to make sure that I have an airtight solution. Other times I wake up in the middle of the night second-guessing a decision, and I am worried about what impact it will have on the future. Ultimately, this worry reveals a pattern of thought and action in which I am constantly relying on myself, believing that if I just work harder, plan more carefully, and cover all the details, I should achieve my desired goals and outcomes.
Psalm 127:1 states, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” This psalm teaches us that God is the one who is at work to accomplish all of His good purposes and we must not rely on ourselves. Without God’s work, our labors are in vain. Note, however, that the psalmist does not say, “Builder, put your tools away and let God build the house,” or “Watchman, step down from the wall; God is watching the city.” We must continue to do the work of building and watching, all the while recognizing that God is the One who will complete the good work He has begun. In other words, we must trust and depend upon God, knowing that He is ultimately building the house and watching the city. Relying on our own strength will only lead to worry and to sleepless nights. But relying on God will allow us to work faithfully with the encouragement that our work is not in vain.
How can we be confident in God’s work? We can be confident because we have been saved and united to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Therefore, because we have been saved, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). Knowing that we are saved by God and created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God will accomplish in us, is a rich blessing and an answer to our temptation to worry.
Psalm 127:2 states: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” The gift of sleep is a precious blessing itself and a wonderful reminder that God is at work and that He loves and cares for us.