When God Withholds Sleep

The red numbers glare at me through the darkness of the room, taunting me to try to get back to sleep. As I toss and turn, trying to get comfortable, my mind clicks on like the rooster just crowed. Before I know it, my thoughts are off and running, trying to figure out the carpool schedule for the week, or calculating when I’ll have time to finish a task, or replaying a difficult conversation. Eventually I’m left feeling exhausted and frustrated at the same time. Doesn’t God give sleep to his beloved? Why has this become a routine trial for me?

Sleeplessness has been the thorn in my flesh for a handful of years. Somewhere in the midst of waking up in the night to nurse babies or care for a sick child or tend to someone who had a nightmare, my sleep cycles were significantly altered. Being a mom has trained my ear to wake up at the slightest noise, and once I’m up, my mind turns on, and it’s hard to shut back down.

Awake in the Night

Whether the cause is children, evening work shifts, or anxiety, the battle with sleeplessness is a common trial. I’ve tried natural remedies, exercise, limited screen time, reading, and even prescription medicine to try to solve the problem. But most of the time, nothing seems to have a long-lasting effect. A frequent prayer request of mine is for better sleep. Some nights, that prayer is answered. I feel like a new woman when I sleep continuously for six or more hours. I’ve grown to be deeply grateful for a good night’s sleep. But the majority of the time, consistent sleep through the night has been a struggle — a struggle that can leave me feeling exhausted and discouraged.

At times, the words of have stung: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” In my worst moments, I’ve questioned God’s love for me. Why would he make this promise and then allow me so many restless nights?

But what if God shows his love for us not only through the gift of sleep, but through the gift of sleeplessness? Might he use sleepless nights to draw us closer to himself? To depend on him each moment of the day?

When Nighttime Falls

If you’ve struggled with setting your mind to rest and falling asleep at night, you’ve likely experienced some pre-bedtime anxiety. Another restless night could make it difficult to care for your children, make it through the board meeting with your eyes open, or have the clarity of mind for an interview.

But as nighttime falls, God already knows our needs. Jesus reminds us not to be anxious about our life— and that includes the next eight hours. If God cares for the tiniest creatures around us, how much more will he care for us? Worrying profits nothing, but robs us of peace, joy, and often, more sleep.

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