I’m not very good at sleeping. I’d say I’ve never been very good at sleeping, but I remember hearing my mom tell people that my older brother was an early riser, go-getter type (still is) while I was a blob she could barely get to move. By high school I was listing sleep as a hobby on job applications because at that point in life I thought of hobbies as things that one really wanted to do, but for which they had no time. There might be a reason all my jobs came from people who knew me rather than people who read my applications.
Then children came on the scene and I discovered I was a very light sleeper, waking at every sound. But when the opportunity to sleep came around, I slept and slept hard. Still, I looked forward to the day when I wouldn’t be wakened by cries in the night and could get several hours solid sleep. No more living like a zombie. That, however, was not the reality in store for me.
When my fifth and final child was still quite young but finally upstairs out of light-sleeper’s earshot, and sleep should have been mine for the taking, insomnia set in. This was a hard pill to swallow, and an exhausting one! I had five young children, a million things to do, the need for wisdom and clarity, not to mention self-control; but instead of sleeping I spent hours staring at the ceiling. With the insomnia, came an anxious spirit.
I tried to control the situation, create the perfect environment, and make sleep happen. In the process, I shamed anyone who interrupted the process, whose attempts to aid my sleep failed, and I put my poor family through the wringer. I became desperate for sleep and let the desire for it take control. Every chance for sleep was also a time of fear that I might not. Don’t get me wrong, I prayed…a lot. I thought if I prayed my anxious mind would be calmed. I thought if I prayed, at least I wouldn’t be wasting my time. I thought if I prayed instead of worrying, I would be holier. Worry is sin, after all, and prayer a commendable thing. But it isn’t a magic potion to be used to my advantage, and my heart was not content with the wakeful nights. The prayers did not accomplish what I desired. I do not mean that my prayers were ineffectual. But my motivation for praying was not what it should be. God, however, is faithful and did not allow me to be tempted beyond what He also provided a way to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).
He was working in me a better understanding of my lack of control and His overall control. He was teaching me to rest in whatever He sent my way. My days were less ruled by lists and the need to accomplish, and more relaxed in the joy that whatever came my way was for my best. I began to realize that if I said I believed in a sovereign God then I needed to be content in every circumstance. The unexpected was to be embraced with joy and gladness rather than railed against as an interruption or undoing of my plans. Over time, I found peace in midnight wakefulness. I had no better times of sweet communion with the Heavenly Father than in those dark and quiet hours.
I had made friends with insomnia. I ran tired, but I knew God’s sustaining grace and strength when I was weak. I trusted the wakeful hours were meant, even, to sustain me in a way that sleep could not.
But this summer, a whole new level of sleep deprivation kicked in. There were strings of whole nights lost and daytime sleep was impossible. Still, life moved on, and responsibilities called. There were days I didn’t know how I would continue, or how I would meet that day’s demands. I was profoundly tired. Profoundly. I don’t know how else to describe it. Still, I could not physically rest.
This, however, is where the promises of God are proved. In our weakness and utter reliance on Him, He shows Himself to be true.
In Philippians 4:19, Paul says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” He supplies every need. 2 Corinthians 12:9 contains a promise I have long been learning to rely on. “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.” “My grace is sufficient for you…” What a truth to cling to! Do I need sleep? No, I need GRACE, and grace is sufficient.
I found myself running late far more often than I would have liked during those weeks. Not because I didn’t plan and prepare, but because preparation was suddenly so different from what it had been. I had no legs to carry me, no stalwart emotions to trust, no strength on which to rely, no alert and ready mind to move me to action. I spent many mornings laid out on the floor, Bible open, in God’s Word and prayer, meditating on all He is and has done. Praying for the sufficiency of His grace in all things. Praying for His legs on which to stand and move forward, His fortitude to stabilize my emotions, His strength to enable in every way, His clarity of mind. The length of time it took me to get off the floor and moving varied, but God never failed to carry me.
Isaiah 40:30-31 says, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” I have loved this verse since childhood and often pondered just what it means to wait on the Lord. I’ve sometimes thought I had an inkling, but now I understand more fully.
Exhaustion makes us crave rest, but true rest is found only in Jesus. Weakness and pain make us crave strength; but it’s only in seeking His strength that we find ourselves soaring, which really is just knowing that He is accomplishing in and for us all that He wills. He will move us though we can’t move ourselves.
I’ve been to a doctor who discovered an underlying issue. Some solid nights of sleep and more typical, occasional insomnia are returning. Now that my body is learning to rest, I have hope for the day I lose the fatigue. But there’s one thing I don’t want to lose. If I keep just one thing, I’d like it to be the utter reliance on God for every moment. I want to start every day laid out before Him, seeking His everything to work in my nothing. His promises are real, His strength immeasurable, His grace sufficient for my every need. By His grace, I can live with pain, I can live with weakness, I can live without sleep. But I cannot live without Jesus.