Sleeplessness Drains Our Power Part Two

Thoughts at 2 a.m. on another sleepless school night, some years back:

 Oh no! Didn’t print those worksheets! Gotta get there early tomorrow.  Have I got enough rubrics left from last year?  Shoot! Left that folder in the computer lab.  Did I e-mail Bob my state standards action list yet?  GOT to get some sleep.  What to say to Billy’s mom tomorrow.  Poor kid.  Grades tanked after Dad left.  Man, I’ve reeeeeeaaaaaallly got to get some sleep!!!!

When I returned to teaching high school some years ago, I slept an average of 4-5 hours each night for about four months.  As with many careers, at the end of the day, my brain overflowed with unfinished business. I lived in high anxiety trying to up my teaching game to match the current expectations which changed profoundly during my years in a different career.  Exhaustion and a short fuse became my norm.  Ever been through a season like that or maybe that’s a norm for you?

Did you know chronic sleep deprivation like this creates some disturbing psychological effects like memory loss and a loss of ability to evaluate risk?  It also affects the part of the brain related to paranoia and fear.    In other words, the more you stay awake pondering stuff and trying to solve problems, the more stressed out you’re going to feel!  God fashioned us to sleep about 8 hours out of every 24.  When we live outside our bodies’ built in expectations long term, we create new problems.

Life can deliver some walloping blows to our state of mind and ability to rest.  Grief, financial setbacks, divorce, rebellious children, job loss, pressures at work and other momentous events can hit our minds with hurricane force, keeping us churned up inside for extended periods of time.  Even positive changes, like moving to a different house, starting a new job or bringing an infant home can create sleep-robbing anxiety.  Here’s the great news; believers are given access to unimaginable resources to ensure that sleeplessness is a temporary season, not a lifestyle.   Here’s some of my favorites when I’m tempted to fix my life between 2-4 a.m.

  • “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” 11:28

This open-ended invitation from our Savior paints a word picture in my mind of me burying myself against Jesus’ chest with his arms wrapped around me. Verse 29 describes Jesus teaching us how to bear up under life’s loads.  This comes from the One who carried the load of his own impending death with Him probably most of his adult life.  No one understands your burdens better than Jesus.

 

  • “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

In the Greek, the word “cares” is the same one used to describe someone who gives great care to an object, like a gardener, who lovingly, skillfully tends his landscape.  That’s how it is with us and Jesus.  He who created us, knows best how to tend to us.  Thanks to the truth of this verse, when I feel overly stressed, I picture myself putting everything I’m worried about into a backpack.  I then hand it over to Jesus.  Sometimes I need to do this repeatedly to convince my soul that I can go to sleep and Jesus will take care of my stuff.

 

  • “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3.

I now recognize when my mind wants to drift into my old patterns and spin itself silly at bedtime, trying to sort out something in my life.  I’m so thankful the Holy Spirit shares his fruit with me, particularly self-control.  When the spin starts, I use it to re-direct my mind to a place of thankfulness, reviewing times when God solved similar problems for me or other folks.  I thank him for being in situations ahead of me and mopping up messes behind me.  I acknowledge His power, wisdom and provision for this situation.  Finally, I speak to my soul and say something like, “I can’t fix or change this right now, but God is on it and I trust Him completely.”  A churning mind makes a churning body because you are not sending messages of rest and quiet to your body systems.  After I speak to my soul, I take deep, calming breaths while reviewing mentally other verses about rest and peace.

 

These are some of the strategies that help me go from counting sheep to living like one, safe, quiet and at rest in the arms of her Good Shepherd.

 

What are your ideas and favorite verses for sleepless nights?  Would you share some of them on my Facebook page so that other blurry-eyed brothers and sisters might find some encouragement?

 

Becoming Fit and Fearless

Thoughts swirled in my head just like the snow outside my bedroom window.  “How dare she speak to me like that! Who does she think she’s talkin’ to?”  My snarky inner Sharon reviewed an ugly conversation with a contentious church member.  I spent the next three hours pondering all the things I wished I said to her before I finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

What are we gonna do?  We can’t just keep using credit cards.”   I remember this little thought spiral keeping me sleepless on many hot nights, one summer, before God opened a door on a great-paying, wonderful career opportunity for my husband.

Many other times, I’ve counted thousands of sheep in the wee hours due to uncontrollable coughing or abdominal pain, stomach flu, kidney stones, pneumonia, and such.  Why does sickness often become so dire in the middle of the night when you need your sleep the most?

In general, Americans are sleep deprived.  The statistics from the American Sleep Association are mind boggling:  50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder.  Everything from snoring and sleep apnea to regular insomnia from mental distress, is causing many of us to fall asleep during the day at the wrong times in the wrong places, like behind the wheel of a car.   People struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep for enough hours to feel rested.  Kingdom folks are no exception.

For the next few weeks, I’ll focus my posts on health and fitness issues which affect our ability to advance Christ’s cause.  How are we going to reclaim land from the kingdom of darkness if we can’t stay awake during a church service or a class?  How do we reach out to our unchurched neighbors, co-workers or family when we are falling asleep in front of our computers at work counting the hours until we can doze on the couch at home, in front of the TV?

I used to battle insomnia for many reasons both physical and mental.  Along the way, I’ve learned how to address causes and survive with or without resolution.  First, let’s look at some physical reasons and some suggestions for coping.

  • Chronic Pain or Conditions- My mother suffered with a triple curvature in her back and lived with pain every day and night.  I’ve struggled with painful digestive tract disorders along with chronic pneumonia.  So, what can one do about pain-induced sleeplessness?
  1. Do not dismiss pain. Find a doctor who is willing to get to the root of yours and will give you tools to cope with it or resolve it. Pain pills for symptoms should only be a temporary fix or last resort, never a first line of defense. Ask God to steer you towards the person who will be solution oriented for your needs.
  2. Keep your tools handy. I prefer homeopathic solutions whenever possible and together with my doctor, found several that work outstandingly.  I keep them easily accessible.
  3. Accept that your best tools will fail sometimes. So, then what? The loneliness of being in pain during the night hours is overwhelming. Pour out your heart to The Great Physician.  Listen to Scripture or worship music.  You can do this on your phone or other device.   Many times, I’ve fallen back asleep, amidst pain, while praying or listening to the spoken Word or worship music.
  4. Share your struggles with a few prayer warriors. Your index finger cannot see nor can your eye grab a mug.  In the body of Christ, we need each other.  Let others share in your burden of sleeplessness and pain.  Often, when I’m struggling during the night, I intercede for others who I know are probably awake and in pain emotionally or physically.
  • Sickness and Disease- In my bouts of pneumonia I’ll sometimes go for weeks only sleeping a few hours each night.  My son-in-love recently said a final good-by to his dear sister after a year-long war with leukemia.  During that year, he, his family and my daughter spent many sleepless nights by her hospital bedside.   I know many senior citizens that care for sickly spouses and live in a chronically sleep-deprived state.  How do we cope with these seasons without becoming completely unglued?
  1. Trust that God will equip and strengthen you for the season.  God orders and changes the seasons of our lives and promises to provide what we need.  Never take that lightly.
  2. Share the need. Access the power of others agreeing in prayer for the healing of you or your loved one.  Don’t row the boat alone. If possible, allow them to share the load with housework, childcare, pet care, office work, and anything else that must be done.
  3. In the dark nights of the soul, fill your mind with His Word. I cannot emphasize the value of memorizing God’s word concerning, sleep, sickness and healing.  I promise the enemy will assault you with truckloads of negativity and fears when you are waging war with something that looms large.   Be ready with your Sword of the Spirit to quiet your mind and change the atmosphere of your environment.
  4. Believe God’s character and His Word. It is God’s will for us to sleep, deeply.   Vital recharging  is designed to happen in our bodies during sleep.  For example, did you know that your adrenal glands need about two hours each night, during the beginning hours of your sleep, to restore themselves?  Your digestive tract rests and heals itself during the night.  These and other key processes are derailed when sleep is too short or interrupted.

Psalm 127:2 is as true today as it was when David wrote it. “….for he gives to his beloved sleep.”  Child of God, lack of sleep cannot be ignored.  I’m praying that God will lead you to solutions so your story of  restoration  will become an encouragement to someone else.