Raise your hand if you have ever served as a summer camp counselor. I 10/10 recommend taking the opportunity if ever given to you – no other experience will break you down to the core and help you build confidence, faith, trust, perseverance, encouragement, and strength. I could go on, but it’s best that I stick to the story (is it ironic that camp also taught me the art of storytelling?):
Although I love the outdoors and spent much of my high school and college weekends hiking, before working at camp I had only truly camped (like, in a tent and everything) once in my life. Within my first week at Lutheran Valley Retreat in Florissant, CO, however, that sad fact was fixed multiple times over. I mean, they even threw us out in a field with nothing but a couple of tarps, 10-gallon buckets, and sleeping bags.
Our week of training was not indicative of the entire summer, however, as most of my group assignments were to retreat groups. I spent my time belaying high ropes and rock-climbing experiences, working groups through the challenge course, and supporting adult leaders in their Bible study, campfire, and worship times before heading back to my cabin (ok, shed) for the night. But about halfway through the summer the camp director threw a curveball and assigned me a group of 2nd – 4th-grade students. And they wanted to camp out. In the woods. I thought another counselor would be able to join me but I ended up by myself (well, and with the 6 girls from my cabin) and I was terrified all night long. The entire night I marveled that the camp would trust such an inexperienced human to sleep in the dangerous woods, left alone to fight off the wild animals and protect six sassy and sweet students. Every sound in the wilderness was a mountain lion. Every time the wind moved the tent I was certain a bear had come to eat us (had I cleaned up all the s’more supplies carefully enough?) I was not at peace.
Our little tent in the woods
When you’re not at peace it’s hard to fall asleep.
Your brain ponders injustice or failure and you toss and turn.
Another time, I was fighting with my husband. Angry and feeling justified in my anger (I wasn’t) I kept rehashing our argument, convinced of my blamelessness. I wasn’t at peace until I realized my fault, apologized, accepted his forgiveness, and forgave his fault as well.
Yet another night I went to bed as a failure of a mom. Exhausted by my third pregnancy, I drank more coffee than recommended. Impatient with my 2-year-old, I raised my voice in anger. And, I didn’t give my 4-year-old the attention he so desperately needed that afternoon and missed the opportunity to listen to his sweet voice tell stories. My guilt washed over me and deprived me of the rest I needed. I wasn’t at peace until a new day of better memories occurred.
When have you lost sleep for lack of peace? Have you received bad news late in the evening? Waited up for a loved one who didn’t come home at the promised time or call at the expected hour? Been caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place when making an important decision?
While thinking about this lack of peace, I read Psalm 4. Check out verse one:
Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
King David (author of Psalm 4) experienced many peace-sucking, distressful situations in his lifetime. Camp out in the wilderness with a bunch of people placed in his care? Check (oh, plus the fact that they were hiding from a crazy king who wanted to kill him…) Receive bad news at a late hour or a long wait for someone to check-in? Check (his kids had some major issues.) Marital problems? You could say that. Sinful, guilt-ridden days? Oh yeah.
But for all of his flaws, sins, and problems, David knew what to do when he was in trouble. He turned to the Lord. And at the end of Psalm 4 he explains why:
In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety.
Despite whatever was happening around him, whatever he had done that day, David rested in the peace of God.
My infant daughter knows a thing or two about resting in peace
Americans (and probably others as well) are lacking in sleep. We’re depressed, anxious, exhausted, overcommitted, and overwhelmed. We need to rest. We need peace. But this seems elusive unless we know the Prince of Peace.
Do you know a person of peace? Being at peace and resting in God is easier said than done. I’m sure those people have occasional restless nights, and I’m sure they experience seasons that knock them over, but the secret is that they come back to the keeper of their soul.
I want to leave you with a familiar Sunday school story:
Jesus suggests to his followers one day that they cross to the other side of a lake. They’re in the boat and everything’s going well until, “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.” (I haven’t personally experienced this, but being on a boat with waves crashing over it sounds pretty terrifying and definitely NOT peaceful) “But Jesus was sleeping.”
Jesus SLEPT through a crazy, terrifying storm?
I’m no Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure I know why he was sleeping. He held the same secret as King David (except better than King David). He knew who was in control. He slept because he trusted his father, and he already knew the last part of the story:
“The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He doesn’t just keep the peace; he makes peace. So he can sleep in peace.
What about you?