“when you are on your beds, search your hearts. . .”
Although many have found their way to new life by way of faith, although a personal relationship with the Lord is the certifiable method by which thousands of suffering people have found their way out of dependency, I doubt the American Psychiatric Association would endorse the Word of God as a bona fide therapeutic blessing.
Especially this in verse 4 of Psalm 4. Here’s David’s therapy: “Bill (or Clarice or whoever), you need to think long and hard about these issues. When you hit the sack tonight, mull it over, consider the possibilities from every angle. Don’t go to sleep before you’ve covered every inch of ground.”
In our affluent culture, insomnia is a plague. And while, throughout his life, David had loads of reasons not to sleep well, it may well be that life in Israel—where people normally knew their place very well—was simpler. Insomnia may not have been the curse it is today.
Whatever the case, this verse opens the theme which has given Psalm 4 its handle as “the evening hymn.” Really, this odd little Psalm is a how-to program—specifically, how to get some sleep. David doesn’t recommend a glass of red wine, at least not here. He had no access to Nite-all or any of a hundred other over-the-counter remedies.
In fact, he advises the opposite. When you go to bed, consider the state of your soul. Don’t shut those eyes until you judge your motives; assess your course in life, your purposes, the very state of your soul—advice that seems sure to keep anyone awake.
The entire Psalm is a call to holiness, not simply a bromide for insomnia. David’s intent (starting with verse 2) is to startle those “sons of men” who don’t really care about the God he’s come to love and worship. It’s a kind of twelve-step program aimed at dependency—on Jehovah God.
And what David is betting on is the still small voice of conscience. What he’s advising is a personal assessment that can be best accomplished in the silence and privacy of the bedroom, outside the glitter and the glare. In the silence before sleep, he says, think about the dead ends we too often pursue when in the spotlight.
I’ve got enough experience with depression to know that this piece of advice may not be the best therapy in all situations. The last thing I’d advise some of those I know and love is to spend more quality time mulling over their spiritual health. In some cases, that’s a recipe for suicide.
All of which doesn’t mean that David is dumb or the Bible is silly. Sometimes the therapy suggested here is exactly what our soul’s doctor would order up Himself, were he to fill out a prescription.
Orthodox Christianity has always argued for a death—the death of self—before the advent of the new life. Death doesn’t come without pain and hurt.
Honestly, I don’t think the Lord wants us all sleepless in Seattle or Sioux Center. But he wants us honest about ourselves and our motives.