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Friday, September 4, 2015

Now I Lay Me Down … to Stare at the Ceiling

Treasured Friend, 

If you care to listen, I am prepared to recite, by memory, the complete TV listing for midnight through five a.m. – weekday and weekend, satellite and over-the-air, network and local. I know which (few) channels are safe to leave yammering in the background in the unlikely event that I drift off for a few moments of sweet slumber. I also can posit with a fair degree of accuracy the percentage by which the number of commercials for sleep aids, space-age mattresses, and CPAP equipment multiplies exponentially during that time slot. Those and cancer-center ads.

Ask me how I know. Ask me how I know you know.

You tell me if it’s our age, our stage of life, or our frenetic place in history that makes insomnia epidemic to our generation.

I succumbed while my dad was in the cancer ward. Late-night updates from his nurses or calls from him begging us to come, quick, to intercede with the medical team became routine during those months. Sleep patterns changed—and I learned that now, as when I was a co-ed, I can survive long-term on mere snatches of stolen shut-eye.

Mom succumbed when we brought Dad home between bouts—and she rose several times a night to check on him. What she didn’t know was that I’d rise several times a night to check on her, checking on Dad.

Even since Dad transferred on up to heaven, Mom and I have continued to keep the night watch. Sometimes together. More often each alone with her own troubling thoughts.

Recently, I began wondering whether any old-time Bible folks ever battled this malady. After a search of Bible passages, I’m here to tell you that they did. It seems the torture techniques of our mortal enemy haven’t changed over the millennia. Since we have to find a way to cope, I’d bet we could learn a fair bit from how those folks handled the terrors of the interminable hours between sunset and dawn.

Both Job and the Psalmists chronicled many instances of lying awake on their beds. Worse, yet, King David got himself (and Bathsheba and a slew of supporting players) into heaps of trouble because of his sleeplessness.

By contrast, Jesus had no trouble snatching forty winks in the stern of a boat that was rockin’ and rollin’ in a dynamite storm. Because Jesus trusted His Father’s loving care, He slept peacefully in the middle of the chaos. The disciples, not so much. When they woke Him, Jesus cut to the heart of their panic and ours: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40, NASB). He nailed ’em. And He nailed me. You too?

I suppose the reason those hours drag on for us is our fears loom larger in the dark, at the exact moment when deprivation of light makes our faith shrivel. Joseph Bayly, grieving the loss of three sons, wrote this challenge: “Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light.” What is it that we’re supposed to have learned in the light? The Psalmist, after begging God to listen to his panicked prayer, gives us a faith-building answer:

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself;
The LORD hears when I call to Him.
Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. …
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety (Psalm 4:3-4, 8 NASB).

To paraphrase, here’s what he called to mind to calm his worried, wide-awake mind:
God knows me.
God listens to me.
My safety (and that of my loved ones) isn’t in my hands. It’s in the hands of the God Who knows me, loves me, and hears my prayer.
So, then, I can lie still on my bed. I can even dare to sleep.

It seems simplistic—unless you’ve learned in the light of many years that God can be trusted. The loving God of the Old and New Testaments always was faithful to His people—and He never changes.

I don’t know whether this will help us actually sleep, but it can keep us from flailing through the post-midnight hours, fearing the lurking shadows.
I’m willing to give it a try. Let me know if you going to try it too.

Blessings and prayers, Julie

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