While You Were Sleeping

by Ken Barnes

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Psalms 127:2 NASB

Worry is a form of unbelief. When God assigns us a task to do, anxiety can set in as to whether we are up to accomplishing it. Yet where God guides, he always provides. I once learned that the sovereign Lord can provide for us even as we sleep.

How Did I Get Here?

My wife and I were leading a discipleship training school with Youth With A Mission. We had been training for several weeks, gearing up to do creative ministries (music, mime, and dance) to share the gospel on the streets of Chile and Argentina. I found myself riding on our old gray bus, traveling from Virginia to Miami, Florida, with a couple dozen students. From there we would fly to Santiago, Chile.

As we drove down Interstate 95, my mind wandered back through the past several months. We assumed the leadership of the training school in an unexpected fashion, but we were sure that God had led us to this role. I had never led a school of this type. And, as a matter of fact, I had never even been on an evangelistic team outreach other than a couple days of isolated experience. I wondered if I should tell my students of my inexperience, but decided that what they didn’t know would not hurt them. Time would tell if this was true.

The Bread of Painful Labors

I didn’t want the students to be fearful, because I was nervous enough for all of us. All the way down to Miami I rehearsed in my head how I would lead my first street meeting. The more detailed the plans became in my thoughts, the less sure I was that I could enact those plans. My mind started to race. Each new strategy in my imagination never seemed to be quite right. Psalms 127:2 refers to eating “the bread of painful labors.” When we plan our agenda in more detail than God has revealed to us, it always turns into a hard assignment.

My Goodness, I’m the Leader!


Argentina, 1986

We arrived in Chile and boarded a bus for Argentina. At the border, we were met with a three-hour delay for buses going through customs. A few of the students asked if they could depart the bus. I noticed they took their instruments with them. I quickly fell asleep, probably because of a tired mind.

Later—I’m not sure how long—I awakened to the sound of music. I peered through the bus window and saw the students who had left with instruments surrounded by a crowd of people. I ran to the door and thought to myself, I am the leader; I need to get out there. Then it dawned on me that the students were doing pretty well without me; maybe I should try not to mess it up. So I just watched them play music and share Christ in our first street meeting.

What is the takeaway from this little story? When the Lord gives us a task to do, he goes before us to make it happen. God had the time, the place, and the people necessary for our first experience in street evangelism prearranged. My worry was an exercise in futility. I think God must have chuckled a bit as he saw the expression on my face when I realized he had put everything together while I was sleeping.

When I arrived back to Virginia, I told other training leaders that I had developed a new evangelism strategy. It’s called “He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.”

Ken Barnes is the author of The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places: The Joy of Serving God in the Ordinary, available in paperback and e-book formats. You can visit Ken’s blog at

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