Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
I recently came across a tweet by Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor of The Gospel Coalition, quoting Mary Crowley: “Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowley’s words are based on Psalm 121:3-4. The psalmist writes,“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 is a bold word for the weary. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” the writer declares at the outset (v.1).
While every follower of Jesus can turn to this short song for clarity and strength in times of uncertainty, it takes on fresh significance for new parents who find sleep elusive and fatigue as commonplace as dirty diapers.
Three hopeful observations about God’s character emerge from Psalm 121.
Three Observations About God’s Character from Psalm 121
1. He’s an Able Helper
The psalmist says that our help is from the one “who made heaven and earth” (v.2). God is able. God is capable; and he is waiting for us to let go of the prideful urge to “go at it” alone, and call out to him in prayer for strength.
But how does God practically help us? Supernatural aid comes from the intercession of the Holy Spirit. He prays for us to faithfully endure during seasons of weakness (Romans 8:26-27). Help also comes from a spouse dealing with their own exhaustion, who is willing to strengthen their marriage by serving their beloved through sacrificial love (I Corinthians 16:14, 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 John 3:16). And it comes from family members and friends who graciously offer to babysit so lethargic parents can recoup some lost shuteye.
In short, between the holy Trinity, a spouse, and family and friends, this collective cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) surrounding new parents is substantial help delivered down from God on high.
2. He’s Eternally Awake; Limitless in Strength.
God never slumbers nor sleeps. He’s eternally alert. Think about that statement for a moment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults sleep for seven or more hours per night. For parents of newborns, infants, and toddlers, seven uninterrupted hours of sleep is only a dream now.
But the God “who keeps you” (v. 3) will not doze off at 10 pm watching the latest show on Netflix or scrolling through notifications on a smartphone. He doesn’t need the recommended seven-to-nine hours of rest before he’s rejuvenated to begin the next day. No, he’s available every minute of every day for the entirety of our lives and into eternity.
[Tweet “Our mortal supply of strength is not an eternal reservoir like the Almighty’s. He doesn’t faint.”]
The prophet Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord will find renewed strength (Isaiah 40:31). God alone renews our strength to parent another day. Our earthly, mortal supply of strength is not an eternal reservoir like the Almighty’s. We need rest for the body and the mind, but “He does not faint or grow weary” (Isaiah 40:38).
And if we go to the Lord asking for rest, he has promised that very thing. “For he gives to his beloved sleep,” he says in his Word (Psalm 127:2).
God is always awake for our sake.
3. He’s our Loving Keeper.
“The Lord will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (v. 8). Parents’ love for their children is deep, but it’s a shadow of the infinite love God has for his children. Psalm 121 is anchored in affection. Every verse is one more promise of God’s loving provision and blessed assurance that he will “keep your life” (v. 7).
The Lord keeps us from evil through his salvation.
Speaking of which, God is our keeper. As a parent physically “keeps” (watches over) their children throughout the day, so God the Father keeps us “from all evil” (v. 7). by the continuous intercession of his Son, Jesus, for those who have repented and believed in him (Romans 8:34). Through the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection, God has kept us from the greatest evil; that is, separation from him for eternity because of sin. Paul writes about God’s divine proximity through Christ’s reconciliation: “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13).
The Lord keeps us from evil through loving discipline.
As adults, we’re still prone to stumbling in sin as we begin the hard process of raising our kids. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” Paul writes to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:4). As we parent our children and discipline them according to the Scriptures, we too should earnestly look to our heavenly Father to correct our own mistakes through his Spirit’s conviction. For Solomon writes by God’s Spirit, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).
As the father of a seven-month-old, I can fully attest to the lack of sleep that everyone told me about in the months preceding his birth. I’ll further confess that uninterrupted sleep has brought strain into my marriage. Two parents who don’t sleep well will become short with one another. However, we must acknowledge our sin, take ownership of it in repentance, and fight for a loving marriage that’s been forever altered in the best way by the addition of a child. For “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward,” (Psalm 127:3).
So, the next time your child is leaving you dreadfully weary and unable to fall back asleep at 2:30 am, like my son has, pray for strength to the one who is able, awake, and full of love for you, his child.
He’s going to be up all night anyway.