Tag Archives: Insomnia

Been There, Done That

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.

Psalm 3:5 (NRSVCE)

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Ironic, that I found myself lying awake in the watches of the night. I finally decided to get up. I came to my office and poured out my heart in my morning pages. In the midst of my writing, which typically starts out with me pouring out my feelings all over the page and ends up as a written prayer, I asked God for some encouragement.

Then I opened to today’s chapter.

King David is on the run. Again. For some twenty-years after being anointed Israel’s next King and God’s man for the job, David lived on the lam with a price on his head. Constantly hunted by King Saul and his forces, David lived in a cave in the wilderness and was surrounded by people who wanted him dead.

It’s happening again. This time it’s David’s own son who has conspired against him. Prince Absalom has run a successful smear campaign against his father. He’s politically maneuvered himself into position and pulled the trigger on a coup d’éta. David flees the city. His approval numbers are in the tank. Political momentum is against him. His own son is hot in pursuit and hell-bent on patricide. David is back in the wilderness. He’s back on the run. He’s out numbered, out manned, and the whole world seems to have risen up against him.

So, he writes a song. Today’s psalm.

In the midst of his lyrics, David says he’s getting a good night’s sleep. The enemies surrounding him, his son’s rebellion, and the threats against him are not stealing his winks. “for the Lord sustains me,” he sings. He ends the song by proclaiming his trust in God’s deliverance.

Of course, he’d been here before. As a young man he’d learned in the wilderness that he could trust in God to deliver him from his enemies. Experience is a great spiritual teacher.

In the quiet this morning, David’s example has me giving a backward glance at the road I’ve already traveled in life. I’ve been in, and through, my own personal wilderness before.

Was God faithful? Yes.

Did I make it through some dark stretches? Yes.

Did they teach me anything? Yes.

Were they ultimately a part of a larger plan that only came into focus after I was able to look back and see them with the clarity of hindsight?Yes.

Do I have any reason to believe that the circumstances stealing my sleep are any different than what I’ve been through before?

No. No, they aren’t.

“Deliverance belongs to the Lord.”

If I’m not sleeping well, then I guess I’ve got some faith-building to do.

Thanks for the encouragement, Lord.

I hope you slept well, my friend. Thanks for reading.

Want to Read More?

Click on the image, or click here, to be taken to a simple, visual index of all the posts in this series from the book of Psalms.

There is also a list of recent chapter-a-day series indexed by book.

About This Post

These chapter-a-day posts began in 2006. It’s a very simple concept. I endeavor each weekday to read one chapter from the Bible. I then blog about my thoughts, insights, and feelings about the content of that chapter. Everyone is welcome to share this post, like this post, or add your own thoughts in a comment. Thank you to those who have become faithful, regular or occasional readers along the journey along with your encouragement.

In 2019 I began creating posts for each book, with an indexed list of all the chapters for that book. You can find the indexed list by clicking on this link.

Prior to that, I kept a cataloged index of all posts on one page. You can access that page by clicking on this link.

You can also access my audio and video messages, as well.

tomvanderwell@gmail.com @tomvanderwell

The Benefits of Insomnia

source: stefanoricci via Flickr
source: stefanoricci via Flickr

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.
Daniel 2:1,19 (NIV)

I’ve never been a great sleeper. I’ve blogged about this in other posts over the years. I have an active brain that spins and mulls on all sorts of things in life at all times. So, after a couple of hours of REM sleep I will regularly wake and begin thinking about all sorts of things. At that point, getting back to sleep is out of the question. It is frustrating, and it has its ill-favored consequences.

I will admit, however, that along the journey I’ve come to recognize that my insomnia is not without it’s benefits. It will often happen in the nights before I’m scheduled to teach a class or give a Sunday morning message. In those watches of the night when every thing is quiet and my brain spins in the no man’s land between deep sleep and clear consciousness, I often find the words, themes and illustrations coming to me. Solutions to perplexing questions strike me. New creative ways of looking at things are revealed.

Throughout time great inventors, thinkers, and creatives have kept paper and pencil near their bed to capture thoughts, dreams, and revelations that come to them in the night. It is a fascinating and mysterious thing which I believe God can and does use if we learn to tap into it. In fact, my most fruitful period of spiritual growth came when I applied a disciplined approach to writing my early morning thoughts. My local gathering of Jesus followers is exploring the idea of hearing the voice of God, and this Sunday morning (1/25/2015) I’m going to be sharing the morning message about my lessons and experiences with early morning journaling.

Which likely means I’ll have a sleepless night or two later this week.

I need a nap.

The Night Watch

the office of dawnI wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130:6 (NIV)

I have, in other blog posts, chronicled my adventures in sleeplessness. From childhood I’ve been a morning person. It’s in my DNA, I’m afraid. Especially in the depths of the winter, as we are in now, my day usually begins in the deep dark before dawn.

As a child, I would hate the early mornings as I lay in bed or sat in a dark house and waited. I waited for the light of dawn or the light in the bathroom which signaled that my dad was up and it was okay for me to be up too. As a kid, I hated sleeping over with friends, most of whom liked to sleep in. It meant I would wake up early in a strange house and have to wait hours for my friend to get up.  As I got older and became the father of little ones, I began to relish my early morning hours of quiet before the house began to stir. I have embraced my early mornings as productive and peaceful on a number of levels.

As I read the lyrics of Psalm 130 this morning, I ran across the verse above which has become very familiar and even dear to me in recent years. It is used in praying the hours (a.k.a. The Divine Offices), which I often do, especially The Office of Dawn. There is even The Prayer of the Night Watch, which are prayers offered between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m.

As a morning person, I feel a deep resonance with the wait for dawn. It is more than longing and desire. It is both the anticipation and expectation of what is to come. As persons of faith, the assurance of what we hope for and evidence of that which we do not see is a key ingredient in our day-to-day life journey. The physical and temporal is embodied in the instant gratification of our appetites and the blunt realities of our senses. That which is eternal and of the Spirit is generally realized at the end of the faithful, expectant, long watch of the night when eucatastrophe dawns and rends the unsuspecting darkness.

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Chapter-a-Day Psalm 3

Hammer365: 108/257 Grandma's Mantle Clock
Hammer365: 108/257 Grandma’s Mantle Clock (Photo credit: David Reber’s Hammer Photography)

I lay down and slept,    
     yet I woke up in safety,    
     for the Lord was watching over me. 
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies    
     who surround me on every side.
Psalm 3:5-6 (NLT)

I’ve never been a great sleeper. When I was a little tike I was that kid. At 5:30 a.m. I was at my parents bedside.

Come on. Mom? Dad?
I’m awake.
Somebody get up.

I remember my dad marching me into the dark living room. There was an antique mantle clock on the shelf. It chimed the hours. My dad pointed to it.

“Until that clock strikes six. I don’t want to see your face!”

Point taken.
But, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m awake at 5:30.
And, you didn’t say I couldn’t get up. You just said you didn’t want to see my face.

So, I would get out of bed each morning and scamper down the steps to the dark living room where I hid behind the gold rocking chair in the far corner (you never know if Dad might get up early; Can’t let him see my face). From there I could peek around the chair and keep my eyes glued to the mantle clock. I could listened to it tick…tick…tick…tick. I waited…for…it…to…chime…six.

I’ve gotten better about sleeping, though I still have bouts with insomnia. I appreciate the blessing of a good night’s sleep. This morning’s chapter makes me think about the millions of people who sleep each night in terror or in hunger or in anxious thought for how they will survive another day. I think about waking in safety and hope of a new dawn and a new day of uncounted blessings. I think about the joy of seeing the faces of those I love and through whom I am loved (after six o’clock, of course; well, with Wendy make it seven o’clock…or eight).

Today, I’m grateful for sleeping in safety; God watching over me. I’m thankful to be able to enter the day with hope and assurance.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 12

Night Watchmen
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Be vigilant, listen obediently to these words that I command you so that you’ll have a good life, you and your children, for a long, long time, doing what is good and right in the eyes of God, your God. Deuteronomy 12:28 (MSG)

Vigilance [vij-uh-luhns] noun
1. State or quality of being vigilant; watchfulness.
2. Insomnia.

I’m up early this morning and have not slept well. The inability to sleep is not new to me, but this morning my insomnia has a reason. Wendy and I are driving to the lake this morning and I can’t wait to get out of Dodge and be at the sanctuary of the lake. This is not new, either. As a child, my family vacationed each year on Rainy Lake on the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. The night before we were to leave was always a night of vigilance for me and my family. Many years my dad would finally give up hope of sleeping and we would pile into the family station wagon at 2:00 a.m. and head north.

God’s command to be vigilant lept off the page at me this morning and I was surprised to look up the definition to find that it is literally insomnia. The connotation is to be watchful like the night watchmen of old who were at their post in the watches of the night staying alert and keeping an eye out for danger.

Then, in a moment of synchronicity, the following passage was a part of the morning prayers in this morning’s Divine Hours:

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Matthew 24:42-43 (KJV)

In a land of abundant peace and safety, vigilance is not something we regularly contemplate, let alone practice. Yet today I’m reminded that God calls me to be vigilant in two respects. First, I’m to be aware that danger comes in many forms. Tragedy and evil, both senseless and malicious, are present and active in this world. God tells me not to be anxious and fearful, but to indeed be vigilant. Second, Jesus promised that He would return and I am called to be vigilant and mindful of the imminent event.

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Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 32

Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign. 2 Chronicles 32:24 (MSG)

I was awake early this morning. My brain was buzzing with anxious thoughts. Like Hezekiah and Jerusalem, I feel besieged. As I lay in the pre-dawn hours, pleading for sleep to return, my mind recounted troubling headlines and disappointing events.

This morning, I stand post on the wall of life and hear discouragement’s taunts. I shore up my heart with God’s promises. I remind my anxious heart of God’s track record of faithfulness.

Today, I’m praying for a reassuring sign.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and linlin