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Insomnia: God Can Use It


Q:

Dear Pastor,

I suffer from insomnia. Does the Bible have a remedy?

A:

All of us have suffered from lack of sleep at some point in our lives. You are not alone in your sleeplessness and yes, the Lord has much to say about sleep in the Bible. The sleep-scripture we love the best is a proverb: When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24, NASB.) In context, this particular scripture was written by the wisest human being who ever lived: King Solomon. He was giving instruction to his eldest son Rehoboam, who was being groomed as the heir to his powerful throne. In this section of wisdom literature, the wise king was saying, in essence, “If you keep a clear conscience, follow God and be smart...you’ll sleep well.” That sentiment is a good word for all of us and a fantastic rule of thumb.

Sleeping or sleepless, we encounter cycles of sleep that may have nothing at all to do with our conscience. Sometimes the culprit is hormonal. Sometimes it’s relational and social. Sometimes it’s spiritual. Sometimes it’s environmental—for example: trains. I’ve always been a light sleeper even in safe, soundless rooms. So when the Lord asked me to live in an environment with blaring coal trains sounding past my window day and night, I had to surrender my fate at the altar of missions-ministry.

My large, Victorian parsonage was situated twenty-five feet from the church I was pastoring in a vacant, Midwestern coal town. The trains still made their brain-rattling treks up and down the rails which surrounded my house; honking fog horns at every intersection through the town at all hours of the day or night. There were six intersections. At times that thundering train was a satanic villain; a punishing weapon against my peace of mind. Other times it felt oddly comforting as I existed, safe and warm in my house on a cold winter’s night. Sometimes I even adjusted to the noise so well that I didn’t hear it any more. Nonetheless, my consistent (and promised) sweet-sleep was affected every day of the three-and-a-half years I served that dying community. That said, loads of prayer-walks and prayer-times were produced as a result of forced insomnia. I know now that God used that season of suffering to deepen my devotion to him, and I'm thankful.

Of course, you’ve done all the practical things to nurture your sleep, right? Daily exercise is a biggie. Moving your body at least thirty minutes a day and breaking a sweat will always bring better sleep. In addition, sleep experts advise a nightly sleep routine—a winding-down ritual that signals to your mind, will and emotions that it’s time to surrender and rest. It works, mostly.

God uses sleep as a tool to intervene in our lives in many ways, which is probably why Satan tries to disrupt it. Dreams, for example, are a constant source of communication between God and man throughout human history. This continues today and I believe it is increasing, as was promised in the Book of Joel: It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28.)

One of the best stories about sleep happened in the Bible’s first book: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place” (Genesis 2:21.) Adam was, in essence, anaesthetized for surgery when God used sleep to remove a rib and create a woman. We then read another instance where God caused a supernatural sleep to fall on King David’s enemies in order to protect him (1 Samuel 26:12.) In addition, those who succumb to sleep often receive vital one-on-one instruction from the Lord. This is designed to keep us from pride and bad behavior (Job 33:15-18.) God also explains that we waste our time worrying when we could be sleeping since he “gives to his beloved even in his sleep” and we are not to fret about provisions and needs (Psalm 127:2.) The Lord then provides a clue to superior sleep when he said, “The fear(reverence) of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil” (Proverbs 19:23.) It seems, as the Bible assures us over and over, when we honor God and put him first, life works better. Even our sleep cycle.

Sleep struggles are part of the human experience. Let’s use those suffering hours as a sweet time of communion and connection to the God who loves us and knows what we need. Turn our pain into gain and worship him until sleep arrives. He deserves it! Remember: “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4.) He’s always listening with an attentive ear and a compassionate heart.

Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Email your inquiries to: info@adriennewgreene.com. For more information & contact for bookings, please also explore: www.askpastoradrienne.com.

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