“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
This reminds me of the 23rd Psalm. The sheep are made to “lie down in green pastures”. And although I would much rather be thought of as an eagle or lion, I am very much like a sheep. I’ve recently learned that sheep need four things to be able to lie down and sleep. They need freedom from fear, anxiousness, hunger, and pests.
A sheep’s main fear is from predators. Because they don’t have speed or cunning or defensive claws, talons or fangs; they rely on their shepherd for protection from predators. Anything can spook them. It is the watchfulness and skill of their shepherd that allows them to feel safe enough to put fear out of their minds. And it is the same with me. I know there is no enemy, real or imagined, that is too big, no foe more powerful than You, my Shepherd. You are my shield, my fortress, my deliverer. There is no enemy that is a match for Your power. You can see an enemy coming from any direction, any time, because You are everywhere, all the time. So I am safe and can rest when I am in Your presence.
Anxiousness in the flock comes from the rivalry and competition for status and position. Like a ‘pecking order’ with chickens, sheep have a ‘butting order’. It’s hard to eat or sleep in peace when being rammed or butted out of the way is a possibility. When the shepherd appears, the flock’s attention is shifted; the butting stops, and rivalries are forgotten. Similarly, there is tension in many of my relationships. In some, there is jealousy, in some, rivalry, hurt feelings, or a sense of being ‘done wrong’ or not appreciated. But in Your presence Father, none of that matters. Those things fade. I’m humbled. I’m relaxed and content. When I put my focus on You, my Shepherd, I am in a place of peace.
When sheep are hungry, they will stay on their feet and continue to wander around for one more mouthful. Until they are satisfied, they will not lie down. Besides physical hunger, if I am emotionally or spiritually unsatisfied, I cannot rest. It is only You, Father, who can meet all my needs. Rather than continue to chew on the same old issues and sins, You have shown me a ‘promised land’ where I can live in Your victory and have all I need. There, is peace and safety.
Sheep can be tormented and driven to distraction by all kinds of flies and ticks. Without the care of a good shepherd who applies repellants, dips and balms, a flock will be unable to eat or sleep at all. They can literally be ‘bugged’ to death. When things ‘bug’ me, I too need to come to You, my Shepherd. Lying down to go to sleep, all the worries of the day return to replay in my mind. There have been nights I hardly slept, anxious about my circumstances and what I would do. But when I give them over to You, Lord, You give me a new perspective. I see things differently. You show me ways to deal with things, solutions I couldn’t have imagined. Or tell me to stand aside and You will handle it for me. Or help me forget about it and move on. You give me peace, so I can sleep.
Thank You for being my Good Shepherd. Remind me to take advantage of the peace and safety You offer me. Remind me to spend time in Your presence. There I find freedom from all fears, anxiousness, hunger and pests. When my sleep is sweet, it is a gift from You. And You alone, O Lord. Amen