When sleep won’t come

A few years ago I asked Facebook friends, “Why am I awake when I should be asleep and sleepy when I should be awake?” One responded, “Welcome to middle age.” I can be dragging and nodding off before getting into bed, and then wide awake after.

I usually keep everything conducive to sleeping: lights off, soft music playing. Reading usually keeps me even more awake. One friend responded to my Facebook query that sleeplessness is an excellent time to pray. True. Sometimes I do pray then. But I also get frustrated when I can’t seem to dig in and get much done in the daytime because I need a nap because I am so groggy. It just seems like it would be so much more efficient to sleep at night and work during the day.

Still, I know that stewing about it only makes it worse. I remind myself in the night that even if I am not asleep, I’m resting. I can enjoy the quietness and freedom to just relax without any demands on my time. I breathe deep and slow, sometime pray, sometimes think, until eventually I drift off. And I catch a nap in the day time if I need to, but I try to keep it short so as not to perpetuate nighttime wakefulness.

Several nights ago, though, was one of my worst nights ever. I don’t think I slept more than an hour the whole night. And what’s worse, I had a three-hour drive the next morning and meetings all afternoon and evening. I wasn’t feeling particularly nervous about the trip. Last year I had made the same journey for a writer’s conference, and I was much more on edge then because it was the first time I had traveled alone or attended anything like a conference in years. But God got me through that, and I knew a bit more what to expect this time. So I had a bit of apprehension, but nothing like the year before. Perhaps underlying nerves were the problem, even though I wasn’t consciously feeling nervous at the time. I tried all my usual tactics, to no avail.

Then I had to fight worry. How was I going to drive and stay awake in meetings for a conference my husband had paid good money for without sleep? Some of my health issues get worse without sleep. What if they flared up? I knew these thoughts and concerns would only drive sleep further away, so I tried to give them to the Lord and stay relaxed.

On top of everything else, I was intensely uncomfortable. Hot one minute, cold the next. The sheets irritated my skin. I got up and went to the couch in the living room, thinking a change of venue might help. It didn’t. Maybe I was coming down with something?

I went ahead and got up at 4:30 a.m. and took my shower. But I was sad and frustrated and even a bit hurt because God had not answered my prayer. He knew I needed sleep. He made me to need sleep. He knew everything on the schedule this day. Why had He let me go most of the night without sleep when I earnestly begged Him for it?

I didn’t know. I sent a quick text to a friend letting her know what was going on and asking her prayers. I decided to just keep getting ready for the trip and see what happened. I felt like I was moving through molasses or walking like a zombie (to mix metaphors). I couldn’t eat much and began to feel nauseous.

I couldn’t remember if I had actually prayed about whether to go to the conference. Was this God’s way of telling me no?

After I got everything ready to go, I knew I could not drive safely in the condition I was in. I decided to try to take a nap in my desk chair and see what happened. I asked God to direct me and help me know whether to go or stay. I asked Him, if He wanted me to go, to multiply whatever sleep I could get in my nap like the loaves and fishes and make it enough. And I fell blessedly asleep for maybe an hour.

When I woke up, my stomach still wasn’t feeling 100% well, but all grogginess was gone. I left for the conference. The night before I had made a sandwich for lunch so I didn’t have to look for a restaurant first thing when I got to town: since I was running late, I was able to eat a few bites on the way. I got to the conference just after the first introductory meeting ended. Though I would have liked to have gotten there in time for it, it wasn’t entirely critical. I had enough time to peruse the schedule to choose which of the workshops to attend that afternoon. I attended the rest of the conference and had a wonderful time. I had no trouble sleeping in the hotel room that night.

Still I pondered why God had not answered my prayer for sleep the night before. One of the truths that had sustained me on a recent family trip was “Your heavenly Father knows what things you have need of (Matthew 6:8). One by one He met each of my needs on that trip. Why did He seem to withhold one this time?

Perhaps one reason was to increase my dependence on Him. I thought I already was depending on Him for a number of issues relating to the conference and travel! But maybe He wanted to take me to a different level.

Philippians 4:11-13 came to mind: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I can’t say I have totally learned that contentment, but I am in the process.

And then 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 came to my attention. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

God may have any of a number of reasons to allow us to suffer a need of some sort. He’s not being cruel or unkind: all of His Word and years of knowing Him testify to that. God told Israel that He let them suffer hunger in the wilderness to humble them, to test them, and to turn their focus from their physical need to the spiritual. Unanswered prayer can cause us to examine ourselves for any hindrances on our part. Sometimes He cuts off something we need to produce more growth, to bring us to maturity.

I still don’t know why God didn’t answer my prayer for sleep on a night when sleep was critically needed. But He did meet my need, even though not in the usual way. Even in the face of a sleepless night and a full day, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

See also:

When I Don’t Get What I Need
When the Solution I Want Isn’t What I Need
Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work
Reasons Why Prayers Aren’t Answered

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)

You are not enough

I keep seeing the same message all over the place: “You are enough.” I’m sure people mean it as an encouragement. Sometimes we feel broken down, inadequate, criticized, unsure of ourselves, and dear encouragers want to lift us up by assuring us, “You can do this! You are enough!”

But the thing is, I know I am not enough.

Apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6

I know, because the Bible tells me. I know, because I have tried in my own strength and failed.

But thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there.

And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 16:14

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:3-4

Ye are complete in him, Colossians 2:10, KJV

For a while when I was facing a task that I felt was particularly beyond me, it helped to reduce 2 Corinthians 9:8 to a few words to carry with me and remind me what God had promised: All grace. All sufficiency. All things. All times.

Sometimes as Christians encouraging Christians, we take God’s grace and help for granted when we assure others, “You are enough.” We think, “Well yes, of course it’s understood that we are only enough in His strength. Of course they know that.”

But we shouldn’t gloss over or take for granted that wonderful truth that God enables us to do His will when we abide in Christ. Sure, sometimes we need a boost of confidence or a switch from a negative to positive attitude. But we need to remind ourselves every day that we can only do His will by His grace and power. We need to consciously depend on Him. And when we achieve success, we need to remember that it came from Him, thank Him, and give Him the glory.

If you have blogged this phrase recently, please don’t be offended or think I am “getting after” or “correcting” you. I am not “blogging at” anyone in particular and have not kept track of the places I have seen this phrase. I’ve just been pondering the concept, and the Daily Light on the Daily Path selection for August 9 dovetailed with my own thinking. I wanted to share what was on my heart.

So what would some better encouraging phrases?

If this is God’s will, He will help you.

You can do all things through Christ. He will strengthen you.

God’s got this!

Or just quote 2 Corinthians 9:8.

What phrases encourage you yet keep the focus on God?

I Need Thee Every Hour

by Annie, S. Hawks, 1872

I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can peace afford.

I need thee every hour,
stay thou near by;
temptations lose their power
when thou art nigh.

I need thee every hour,
in joy or pain;
come quickly, and abide,
or life is vain.

I need thee every hour;
teach me thy will,
and thy rich promises
in me fulfill.

I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee!
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to thee.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Loving as Jesus loved

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Some years ago I read in a missionary biography about a woman who struggled for years to truly love the people she came to minister to. Finally she stopped looking at herself, her failures, her lack, and began thinking of God’s love for her. And almost unconsciously on her part, God changed her heart, to the point that people commented to her husband on the change.

I thought I knew which writer shared that, but I’ve looked through her books and haven’t found that passage. Yet that lesson has come back to me many times over. I feel the same lack, and pray often for repentance, forgiveness, and change.

How does the Bible tell us spiritual change comes? II Corinthians 3:18: But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Jesus said, in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” He had said it before in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” just after the section about about in Him. Ephesians 5:1-2 say: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So how did Jesus love? This is a topic worthy of much more study, but after just a brief time of thought, I have plenty to meditate on:

Jesus us loved us “while we were yet sinners” Romans 5:8. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before He extended love to us.

He loved us before we loved Him: “We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19. He took the initiative.

He gave Himself.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. Galatians 1:3-4.

 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2.

 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14.

That giving involved inconvenience, weariness, misunderstandings, false rumors, humiliation, pain, and death.

He ministered to others when He was the only One who deserved to be ministered to.

He laid down His life for us. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” 1 John 3:16. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13.

He loved not only in word but in deed.

Early in my Christian life, I had trouble forgiving others because I’d get stuck going over and over what they did to me, how wrong it was, and how they didn’t deserve forgiveness. And then I encountered the parable of a man who was forgiven a devastating amount that would have been the absolute ruin of him, yet wouldn’t forgive his fellow man a very small amount. That made clear to me like nothing else that forgiveness wasn’t based on how small or large the wrong or how “deserving” the wrongdoer was. It was based on God’s forgiveness of me. I had wronged Him so much more than anything anyone else has done to me, yet He fully forgave. In light of that, how can I withhold forgiveness from anyone else?

Similarly, my love for others is not based on whether they deserve it and doesn’t come from my paltry efforts. Oswald Chambers said in the My Utmost for His Highest reading for April 30, “The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally; it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” When the Holy Spirit sheds abroad His love in my heart, when I abide in Him, when I behold His great love for me, then His love will fill and overflow from me to others.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays,  Testimony Tuesday, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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