Insomnia visits me in cycles. I can go months enjoying fitful sleep, but then illness or a high-stress event upsets my applecart and I’m suddenly faced with prolonged bouts of sleeplessness. Have you been there?
When insomnia gets hold of me (even if I’m thoroughly exhausted), something happens as soon as my head hits the pillow. My mind races through the details of the day making a tally of the things I hoped to accomplish but didn’t, and reminding me of every way I let someone down. Do I thank God for what I actually finished or allow myself to relish in His forgiveness and provision for my shortcomings? Mostly not.
My default setting is to squeeze my eyes shut (so hard I could give myself a tension headache) and then unload my worries and failures on God in a desperation “prayer”. What I’m really doing is adding to my own anxiety by cataloging everything I perceive as wrong or insufficient in my life. I cloak outright negativity in the security blanket of prayer. Before I know it my heart is beating wildly, my eyes are open as big as saucers, my fists and jaw are clenched, and it’s past 2 a.m.
This cannot continue. God grants sleep to the ones that He loves (Ps. 127:2). That’s me. That’s you. We need our sleep.
God knows our propensity to try fix ourselves, situations, and the people around us. We are incapable of fixing anything (properly) in our own strength. When we stubbornly attempt to we suffer the effects of anxiety. That is precisely why God doesn’t just tell us to pray. If we only spew out worry and call it prayer we miss the point of bringing our requests to Him.
The Lord instructs us to pray with thanksgiving; not just pray. Prayer minus thanksgiving is a lot like whiny begging.
Prayer with thanksgiving hands the problems back over to The Only One who is able to fix them; acknowledging God’s sovereignty and abundant kindness.
Prayer with thanksgiving finds joy in hardships by trusting that the God who hears us will mercifully use tough situations for believers’ good and His glory.
When I “pray” in a worrisome way my request reflects a skewed view of my Lord. If I ask God in Eeyore fashion, “Lord, I blew it again. I just keep messing up. Can you find it in your heart to forgive such a wretch another time?” I’m really stating something rather than asking. I’m saying that I think His love has limits and that I am unworthy. That just shows a lack of gratitude for the fact that Christ died for me because I’m unworthy and because of the boundless forgiveness of The Father.
If instead I pray, “God, I thank you that every sin I committed today was paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross. Thank you that I can rest because I’m forgiven. Thank you that even though I failed many people today you are still sovereignly at work in their lives. Thank you for caring for my family and friends’ needs far more than I do.” then my heart is reminded that He alone can bear those burdens. Because He chooses to do so He is worthy of my praise and adoration.
Sometimes I let my mind wander and heart race so long that my body is just too wired to sleep. At that point I have to get out of bed to purposefully reset my thinking. I find that if I’m still awake half an hour after getting into bed it is best to go downstairs, make a cup of Sleepy Time Tea, and read a reassuring passage like Psalm 16. If that doesn’t do the trick, I take a melatonin and copy Scriptures in my own handwriting.
Tonight I will be praying with thanksgiving for all of you who also struggle with insomnia.
Rest well, dear friends, in the love of our Savior.