Four in the Morning Faith

0 comments Posted on November 1, 2021

by Amir Tsarfati & Steve Yohn

Neither of us are good sleepers. This can be a good thing since we live eight time zones apart. If I, Steve, send Amir an email with a question, I can usually expect an answer from Israel fairly quickly no matter the time of day. The same is true if Amir sends me a text in the middle of the night Denver time. However, there is definitely a downside to insomnia, even beyond the obvious physical toll.

About a week ago, I was reminded that there are two four o’clocks in a day. I’m not sure what woke me up—a creak of the house, a shift of the Schnauzer. Typically, when I have those early morning wakeups, I’m able to shut back down. But this morning wasn’t typical.

As soon as I woke up, I started stressing. Amir and I are working on a very tight deadline for a book, and I had gone to bed with it weighing on my mind. I lay there awake until I was finally able to get my brain to shut down, and I fell back to sleep. Thirty minutes later, though, I was wide awake and picking up right where I had left off. This time, however, I had the added benefits of pumping adrenaline and a heavy dose of early morning lack of rationality. By the way, it has been scientifically proven that there are absolutely no good decisions made before 6:00 a.m.

I processed, I analyzed, I schemed, I repented, I tried to distract myself with a book. Ultimately, I gave up and got up to work.

The frustrating thing is that I had prayed about this. I had given it over to God. I had complete faith that God would walk us through this seemingly impossible timeframe. There was no doubt.

Well, not until 4:00 a.m.

Faith is a funny thing. Rather than a perpetual constant, faith seems to be more of a lather-rinse-repeat. I believe there are 4 P’s when it comes to the process of faith, a progression which will eventually lead us to trusting God during our problems and crises.

The first is Panic. When the diagnosis is given or the job is lost or the spouse leaves, it’s like a punch in the gut, it’s like the air is sucked out of the room, it’s like Wile E. Coyote the moment he realizes that he’s run himself off a cliff and there’s nowhere to go but down. This panic might be immediate, or it might initially be numbed by the shock. But it will come—in the quiet moments, in the alone moments—when there is nothing standing between you and the future. It’s those moments when inevitability and impossibility meet head on. You’re watching the steamroller slowly coming toward you, and your cement shoes are ensuring that future flatness is a forgone conclusion.

It’s in those steamroller moments that the second P comes into play—Prayer. David says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears” (Psalm 18:6). We pray—God hears. A simple formula, yet one that changes everything.

Suddenly, we are not alone in our problem. We have an ally, and not just any ally. We’ve got the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator God of the universe standing with us. We cry out, “Stop the steamroller!” to the only One who knows where the brake pedal is and has enough leg strength to push it.

But here is the toughest part about faith: believing, deep down, that God actually cares enough to stop the steamroller. And, quite frankly, there’s a reason for our doubt, because there are times when He chooses not to stop the steamroller and we get pancaked down into the asphalt.

That’s why the third P is so desperately needed—Perspective. This is the ability to see our lives through God’s eyes. Paul puts his suffering and struggles this way, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul throws all of our crises—the foreclosed house, the cancer diagnosis, the wayward child, the bipolar struggle—into one big basket and slaps a label on which reads “Light and Momentary Troubles.”

Now, before you get angry with him or start formulating any yeah-buts, remember who’s writing. It’s Paul. And if there is one person with whom you don’t want to get into a Jaws-esque scar comparison battle, it’s him. Yet, despite his tendency to get beaten, imprisoned, dragged out of cities and stoned, shipwrecked, and side-thorned, he’s still able to say, “You know, guys, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter all that much.” The reason the apostle is able to say that is because his perspective of the grand scheme of things is really, really grand—it’s God-sized grand.

We see pain, God sees progress. We see struggle, God sees growth. We see hopelessness, God sees opportunity. We feel despair, God feels sorrow. We feel alone, God feels love. We scream “Stop!”, God says, “Not yet.” We ask “When?”, God says, “When it’s time.” We plead “Why?”, God remains silent. We beg “Please…”, God says, “Trust Me.”

If we can lift our eyes to see our pain through God’s eternal perspective, then that will grant to us our fourth P—Peace. Jesus promised us an amazing heaven-sent peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is the peace that eases the adrenaline, that changes the focus, that rekindles hope, that allows us to take our eyes off ourselves so that we can put them back on God and on others. This is the peace that assures us that we are perfectly in the middle of God’s perfect plan for our lives. This is the peace that reminds us that this life is just a blink of an eye compared with the eternity that is awaiting us with our Lord. This peace is a myopia-killer. This peace is a purpose-restorer.

Our deadline still exists, and it still seems just as impossible. But the panic has been replaced by fear. That doesn’t mean that when 4:00 a.m. rolls around again tomorrow, the doubt and worry won’t make a reappearance. But as long as we push past the panic and pray, seeking God’s perspective, His perfect peace which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Him.

Amir Tsarfati is a native Israeli who is founder and president of Behold Israel—a nonprofit ministry that provides Bible teaching through tours, conferences, and social media.

Steve Yohn is senior writer and editor for Behold Israel, and formerly was pastor of a church in Colorado.

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