“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
It is astonishing to think how greatly we labor and care for our own lives. Many of the waking hours of our day are devoted to sustaining and building ourselves so that we can flourishing, or at the very least, get by. That’s one of the reasons I love this Psalm; it is so immediately relevant to everyone that it is difficult to avoid.
Read and take it to heart: “unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain“. I’m reminded of the words of James who compares our lives to vapor– here today and gone tomorrow. It’s amazing that we spend an average of 79 years building something that doesn’t last and that is as fragile as a vapor. Your first inclination might be to feel helpless, defeated and even futile, but I think that’s an acceptable place to start as long as we don’t stay there. The alternative is that, in our pride, we assume we have no need for God. This was the sin of Israel in Amos 3, as they trusted in their own fortifications all the while ignoring the fact that their lives were not pleasing to God, which no amount of self-work can correct. Instead, we ought to be driven to humility as we recognize our profound need for God to sustain us. As our hearts grow to recognize God as protector, provider, sustainer and deliverer, we begin to orient our lives around his provision and purpose.
The irony of this “feast of anxious toil” is that it is a feast of crumbs that never satisfies. Instead, trade these scraps for the actual feast, which is found only in the care and provision of our Father. As 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us, “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”. Trade the anxiety of godless living for the confidence in a God who will provide all that we need. Strive not to be proven by the your own measures, but to be proven in the sight of God. Loosen the grip on your life, which you couldn’t hold that tightly anyway and rest. Why? Because “he gives to his beloved sleep”.