For several years now, I have periodically struggled to sleep well. This has not always been the case. For years, it was my wife who had to fight for a good night’s sleep. If she woke up for any reason, that was it; worry and fear would overcome her, and she could not go back to sleep. I would listen and try to sympathize but, like I said, this was not my problem. I was sleeping well.
That is, until about four years ago. Stress from my job, worry about my children, and frustration over continued financial difficulties all conspired to have me join my wife in her sleep troubles.
The pattern of my insomnia took on a frustrating sameness. I wouldn’t sleep well one night, and so, the next I would be overly tired from not sleeping well the night before. I would take something to help me sleep. Then, for reasons unknown, I would wake up sometime between two and four in the morning, my mind racing through worrisome scenarios that would be of little concern were it between two and four in the afternoon. This happened night after night after night. Then, all of a sudden, the cycle would end, and I would sleep well every night for several months before the process would begin all over again.
If that sounds awful, it’s because it was awful. I’m not quite sure why I started having trouble sleeping. But, eventually, it occurred to me that instead of worrying and fearing everything under the sun, I should give thanks to God for everything under the sun. So that’s what I started to do; I started to give thanks whenever I could not go back to sleep.
My prayers didn’t work like a magical incantation, instantly securing the sleep I so desperately desired and needed. But why do we give thanks anyway? Is it simply because we like what God has given us? Or is there more to it than that?
When I gave thanks during those restless nights, I was reminded of something a lot more important than getting a good night’s sleep; I was reminded of God’s love for me. The things I thanked God for in the middle of the night deepened my experience of His love. I saw that insomnia is temporary, as are most circumstances in this life, but “His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). The more I gave thanks at 3 a.m., the more I was reminded of how much He loves me.
Two things happened as a result of this new practice. First, I began to thank God even for those “awful prayer times” because I knew they were doing something in me as a follower of Christ that could not be done in any other way. Second, and more importantly, I began to see Jesus as more desirable than even the sleep I knew I needed. The more I thanked God for how He has provided for me and my family, the more I found myself thanking Him for providing Jesus to save us. This was a new rest—a grateful resting in His enduring love.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond