I have never slept well. Even as a kid I don’t think I can remember having an easy time getting to sleep or staying asleep. Sometimes this can be a very discouraging problem. There are so many things a person wants to accomplish, and it can be very difficult to do with little (or sometimes even zero) sleep. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. I know I’ve written about this before, but I thought I’d remind myself of a section of scripture that has always helped me, and if you have struggles to sleep it might help you too.
One scripture that I tend to read every morning after a hard night’s sleep is found in 2Corinthians 11:23-29 where the apostle Paul boasts in his weaknesses and sufferings. He describes being lashed by the Jews and beaten with rods. He was stoned and he was shipwrecked. He was “in danger from rivers, danger from robbers” and danger from all the different people groups who would have loved to have him killed. Then we see in verse 23 that he was “in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
This might seem strange to you but this comforts me in many ways. One, it gives me comfort to know that the apostle Paul could relate to having many sleepless nights. Again, it comforts me to see that he included this in a list of things that were absolutely horrible and frightening, yet he considered it a worthy enough trial to mention in this devastating list. Sleeplessness is a difficult trial because it always happens in private and it is something many people cannot relate to. Nevertheless it is as real for you as a broken limb or a lack of food. Just the fact that Paul acknowledged this as a real trial helps me to not feel so pitiful that I feel it is such.
In another way, it humbles me. I might struggle to sleep, but if I am hungry I can go to the fridge. If I’m thirsty I can go to my sink. If I’m cold I can get an extra blanket. I do not have people searching for me so as to kill me, and I am not living with nearly the “daily pressure” (see verse 28) of anxiety for all the churches I have planted and all the evangelistic duty that Paul had.
It produces in me a right estimation of my sufferings. Not overblown, but not disregarded. And I think that is good. It is similar to an experience I had the other night. I had been groaning and complaining about not sleeping. I thought I had better turn to the Lord in prayer rather than continue on. As soon as I did it occurred to me that the same God who sees me in my bed and hears my complaining, is the same God who sees starving children, and people caught in the sex trade, and slavery, and every other horrific circumstance with which I cannot relate. It’s not that God doesn’t sympathize with even the slightest need of mine. Yet I can’t help but wonder how my complaining sounds to a God who sees the whole world all at once.
Nevertheless, He cares. More than I can even hope to imagine, He cares. If he cares about the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field, will He not care about me in my need, however small? Of course He will. Doesn’t His word instruct us to cast all of our anxieties on Him? Why? “Because He cares for you (1Peter 5:7).”
Paul continues on about His weaknesses and writes about the thorn in His flesh, about which He pleaded with the Lord three times to take it from Him. The Lord’s response to all of Paul’s suffering is also a tremendous encouragement, and at times a gentle rebuke to me.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness.” Therefore (says Paul) I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2Corinthians 12:9-10).”
It might not be God’s will to remove your present suffering from you yet. Maybe, not until eternity will you or I be delivered from whatever circumstances seem to plague us. But we can know that whatever it might be, our Lord is faithful and His grace is sufficient in all of these things. He is sovereign over our lives and we must gladly bow the knee to His will. Could you or I be content, knowing that our loving Father is in control, with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities? Or would we resent our circumstances all of our lives? If we will, and I speak to myself, trust Christ and be content with our lot, His strength and power will rest upon us in all of our weaknesses. He will shine brighter than if we had every reason to be strong in ourselves. Love the Lord Jesus, you His saints, and trust Him with your whole heart.