Dealing with Restlessness
Recently I woke up in the middle of the night anxious about something. The worry over it kept running through my head, keeping me awake.
According to the Bible, King David experienced his share of restless nights as well. On one such restless night David composed Psalm 4. Jewish tradition claims that this psalm was written while David fled from his son Absalom. (Absalom led a revolt against David. His army swept into Jerusalem, chasing David out.)
David’s predicament was much worse than mine, but he handled it in a way that gives me hope for my restless nights.
What did David do that I might imitate?
The key thing David did was to pour out his heart to God. He began the psalm with a plea to God to hear his prayer and to answer his prayer. And he spoke honestly of his distress, his shame, his struggle with anger, and the hopelessness that surrounded him that left many asking, “Who can show us any good?”
What I begin to recognize as I contemplate Psalm 4 is that when my anxiety remains bottled up inside of me my restlessness multiplies, but when I pour out my anxiety to God my restlessness dissipates.
I don’t have to express my anxiety as poetically as David. John Bunyan stresses, “The best prayers have often more groans than words.” So I simply need to pour out my heart to God—with words or just with groans.
1 Peter 5:7 counsels, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
No matter what the anxiety is, when it is bottled up inside, it multiplies; when it is expressed to God, it dissipates.
David Seamonds writes, “Have you found and faced the painful places in your past which you feel are the chief sources of your low self-esteem? It is very important that you have the courage not only to honestly look at the people and incidents involved, but also to plug into the feelings that go along with them. Brain research proves conclusively that our memories store not only mental pictures from the past but also the original emotions experienced at that time. So when you feel you have discovered the hurts, humiliations, deprivations, or rejections, allow yourself to feel their pain and also to feel your reactions to that pain. This not in order to blame others or to escape responsibility. It is done so that you can honestly face up to feelings you may have buried for years…. But you cannot confess to God what you will not first admit to yourself….
“The greatest manifestation of grace is the Cross, and the Cross means that when God saw us at our worst, He loved us the most. So armed with the courage grace can brings, look squarely at the worst, the most painful, the most humiliating, the most abusive, and the most devastating put-downs of your life. Remember them in your mind, and relive them in your emotions, but don’t stop there. Relinquish them to God in forgiving and surrendering prayer. It’s doubtful you can do this by yourself, so get help from a close friend, pastor, or counselor.” (Freedom from the Performance Trap, p. 161-162)
How did it turn out for David when he poured out his heart to God?
He remembered where his hope had come from, so he prayed, “Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord” (verse 6). He recalled the joy that had come to him from the Lord, so he sang, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” (verse 7). And he resolved to trust himself and his sleep into God’s care, so he declared, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (verse 8).