• Richard Parrish

A Deeper Need Than Sleep


In the last few evenings, I’ve noticed something different.


My wife will tell you that when it’s time for bed, once I lay down, I fall asleep. There’s no tossing and turning, counting sheep, or delayed response.


It’s: “close my eyes, and Richard has left the building.” I’m out! It’s been that way most of my life.


I know friends who have a difficult time going to sleep. But it’s hard for me to connect with their reality. I’m thankful that I’ve not had difficulty sleeping.


After all, rest does the body good.


But the last few evenings I’ve noticed as I’m drifting off my thoughts are taking me to some tranquil place; a beach, hiking trail in the Pacific Cascade mountain range, or a scenic drive along the Oregon coast.


I wondered: What’s that all about?


Possibly it may be the confinement I’ve experienced in 2020.


Unlike many people, isolation — forced or not — isn’t a problem for me. As an introvert, I’m thankful I can do my work from my small office in my home.


I’m also grateful for the technology that allows me to have meetings with pastors and church leaders globally, right from the comfort of home.


Guess I’m not much of a social butterfly. But that’s okay.


So, why all these images and longings for a tranquil setting?


That question has been on my mind a lot lately.


This morning I was reflecting on Psalm 11. The Psalmist’s words spoke to me:

“In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain⁠ [1]…”

This scripture struck me. Pay attention. Listen. Don’t rush, pause, and carefully examine these words, I thought.


As I read Psalm 11 in its context, I began to see how the Psalmist needed more than sleep. His soul needed rest.


David is in desperate straits. His life is in danger. The temptation for him to run from danger caused him to examine where he would place his confidence.


His desire to escape his situation, when lawful authority was being destroyed, was a powerful impulse.


He had to resolve where he would place his faith.


Somehow, David’s circumstances don’t feel much different than ours today.


People are desperate, lawful authority is challenged, and moral standards are disputed. Trust is difficult, and disagreement is divisive — and becoming more destructive.


When faced with our state of affairs, even the strongest of souls can grow weary.


And like the Psalmist, I think most of us can relate to the wishful desire:

“… Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah.
I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”⁠ [2]

While watching the political antics and violence on television, I casually asked my wife: “You want to move?”


It wasn’t a serious question, just a nostalgic longing to escape the chaos we all face.


But like the Psalmist, I too must acknowledge my weary soul and resolve the question of faith: In whom will I find refuge?


Where can I find a safe place of protection when my world is in turmoil? Where can I hide when my enemies seek my harm? When lawlessness increases, where — and to whom — can I go who will protect me and render a just verdict when I’m falsely accused?


David’s resolve is: “In the LORD, I take refuge.” His experiences have proven to him that God is reliable — even when things are desperate.


Listen in to David’s reflection:

“… for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright heart.” (vs. 2)

Sound familiar? Those today who seek to destroy the “upright heart,” may not be using bows and arrows, but their means are equally destructive.


Now, listen to David’s question:

“…if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (vs. 3).

As tempting as it was for David to flee like a bird to a mountain, and as appealing as it is for me to move to the woods or beach, the need for the righteous to stay firmly planted in our society is essential.


Is your soul weary? Do you want to escape? While it seems very attractive, the reality is: A change of location doesn’t solve the deeper problem.


There is rest for a weary soul. Jesus says:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ⁠[3]

That’s more restful than a trip to the beach or hike in the woods!

1 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 11:1.

2 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 55:6–8.

3 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mt 11:28–30.