Do you ever struggle with not being able to get to sleep? I do!
A battle I go through regularly is a battle to get to sleep. I’m so blessed not to have full insomnia, but getting enough sleep is something I struggle with often. It often comes back every few days, more depending on how much is going on around and inside me! I’m not sure how much wisdom I have on it yet, but I thought it might be a good idea to blog about it, if that’s okay. I pray it blesses you too.
So here are some of the things I think I have been learning…
Normally, I can’t sleep because I am tense: anxious about something, trying to figure things out, or else just too busy processing everything that has happened until my heart can get to a place of quiet. Good things keep me awake as well as bad ones, especially if I am processing them.
It’s generally anything that is not yet quiet in my heart and mind- and often, if it is becoming an issue, tension because I’m anxious that I’m not asleep yet! Then, of course, I get more and more tense, and I lay there for a long, long time… until eventually all goes quiet… and I’m asleep.
I think sleep comes when your mind goes quiet.
And I think a big part of the solution is to relax.
And the foundation for that is knowing that, ultimately, all will be well. That root of that is being forgiven; accepted; lovedand secure in the love of Father God (which happens when you come to Him, turn from wrong and receive His forgiveness through Jesus, following Him as your Lord).
I’m an expert at overreacting to things; assuming the worst and getting upset… when things probably aren’t that bad.
And lack of sleep probably isn’t a big a deal as I think it is when I’m lying awake.
I’ve learned by experience that I won’t die if I have a night of no sleep at all. It doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes. It’s not great, but I’ve survived.
I’ll feel pretty rubbish the next day, but I’ll be okay. I’ve also learned by experience that the insomnia will break eventually. In a few days, if I just stay calm about it, one day soon I’ll be surprised by a good night’s sleep, and I’ll feel more strength come back again, and I’ll feel loads better. And, the more I just relax and stop stressing about it, the more quickly that will happen.
I’ve also learned that being very tired is not necessarily a bad thing. It does make me more sensitive, more easily upset and more easily stressed. It does make it hard to get through the day. But it also makes me very dependent on God because of that. I know I can’t do an exhausted day on my own: that I need God in a special way. And so I’m more intentional. I pray harder. I lean on God more. I ask others to pray for me (I’m so blessed to work in an office of believers). And I find deep peace and strength coming in. It’s more of His strength, and less of mine. It’s beautiful.
I’ve also learned that often I just expect too much of myself. I stay up late and try to do so much because I think that must be what God wants to do. A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me deeply through Ps 127:
‘Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.’ Psalm 127:1-2
It was a breakthrough realisation.
I am only called to do the things the Lord is leading me to do, and, even then, it won’t work unless His hand is on it and, if it is, He’ll be the One carrying the weight and opening up the way. I am not called to do everything. And it’s okay to take time to sleep. Sleep is a gift from God.
That means that an early night isn’t a crime. Making time to ready a book to wind down is okay. I am not called to do everything, and it really is okay to make time to rest.
I’m called to serve God for the long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.My salvation is dependent on what Jesus did for me, not on anything I do. And sleep is a gift from God.
But, I also think something that would be really helpful with getting to sleep is to receive the peace of God into my spirit. If I can tune into the spiritual reality of my Father’s love for me, quietening me, reassuring me, my heart will be quieter; more at peace.
I realised that the other day: I lay there, trying to get calm and go to sleep, and I sensed that Father there, loving me, wanting to pour peace into me; wanting to hold me in His arms and soothe my restless thoughts.
‘”The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”’ Zephaniah 3:17
‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.’ Psalm 139:7-12
‘Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.’ Psalm 139:16
Actually, I suspect maybe the Lord allows the sleeplessness to show me the tension in my heart, because He wants to comfort it. If He gave me sleep straight away, every time I asked for it, I wouldn’t learn how to receive His peace for the things that are keeping me awake. I wouldn’t discover the peace He wants to give.
Realising that my God is with me, for me and in control. Because I am a child of God through Jesus, I have no reason to live in fear anymore. Realising that the things I have not yet resolved in my mind are secure in His hands. Realising that I am loved and, in Christ, because I am forgiven through Him, everything is ultimately going to be okay.
I think the Lord has also given me a key that I’m still learning how to use: His Word. If you repeat a Bible verse to yourself, over and over again, your mind and your spirit will go quiet. It’s like a muscle; I forget to do it. I struggle to do it. Sometimes it feels like it’s not working. But there have been lots of times when it’s really helped… when I’ve woken up in the morning and I realise I had decided to think about a verse… and then I woke up, and it was morning.
My dear friend Jane recommends this verse:
‘I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ Psalm 4:8
It speaks peace into your spirit; as well as your mind.
And there are others, too:
‘I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.’ Psalm 3:5
‘“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
4 Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.“‘ Isaiah 46:3-4
‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ Matthew 6:34
‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ John 14:27
There will be grace for tomorrow, however tired I am. There is grace for lying awake, too. I can use the long moments of sleeplessness to pray; to receive rest into my spirit: to lift my heart and concerns up to God; to rest in His arms; to receive His love.
And, whether I sleep or not, I can rest in His arms, knowing He will give all the grace I need and fill all the exhausted gaps with His love. 🙂
(There is so much comfort and help we can draw from God, and He longs to give it to us. However, the first thing we all need to do is come to Him for forgiveness and rescue from the eternal judgement we all face. We need to come to Him, turn from wrong, surrender to follow Him and receive what Jesus did for sinners on the cross. That’s the way back to God: the way to His forgiveness and grace and eternal life. On sleepless nights and all the time, He is waiting for you to come to Him).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.