“I am so tired all the time that I feel like doing nothing but sleep. Then when I go to bed I can’t sleep because my thoughts are going ninety miles an hour. I think I’m going crazy. Will I ever find rest?”
One of the common symptoms of depression is the inability to sleep. Racing thoughts or inordinate worries keep you awake and only compound the dark feeling of “normal” waking hours. You know that God is the one who "slumbers not nor sleeps" and you'd rather not be like Him in this area.
Nearly every year it seems we hear in the news of horrible crimes committed by young mothers who struggle with what has been labeled “post-partum depression.” Apart from the very complex things that happen biologically in women after childbirth (not to mention every month), you have to consider the tremendous stress of being repeatedly torn from sleep by a newborn for months on end.
Aside from offering biblical solutions, I will once again encourage you to see your doctor to rule out physical causes for your insomnia. However, sleep is not an insignificant issue for believers. It is of great value in your life, a gift from God (Psalm 127:2). David meditated on such good things during his waking hours that his heart spoke to him while he slept (Psalm 16:7).
Church reformer Martin Luther struggled with insomnia and fought what he considered Satanic attacks in the night:
When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me. When he begins to plague me, I give him this answer: “Devil, I must sleep. That’s God’s command, ‘Work by day. Sleep by night.’ So go away.” If that doesn’t work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, “Yes, old fellow, I know all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a few extra. Put them down.” If he still won’t quit and presses me hard and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, “St. Satan, pray for me. Of course you have never done anything wrong in your life. You alone are holy. Go to God and get grace for yourself. If you want to get me all straightened out, I say, ‘Physician, heal thyself.’”
Insomnia is not sin. It is hard and it is worth fighting (like Luther did), but there are bigger issues to face if you have ruled out clear physical issues. Here are some questions to answer that can help uncover some factors you may not have considered:
· Do you think there is something you must have that has become an obsession? Even things that are good (relationships, possessions, jobs) become idols when you think you cannot have peace without them. Some depressed feelings (and sleeplessness) are just a byproduct of wrong goals and believing things that are not true.
· Are you worried about something? Maybe you can’t sleep because you are worried about getting to sleep. Even if you are not a “nervous person,” the comforting words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 and of Paul in Philippians 4:1-8 bring peace.
· Are you angry at someone or about something? Sometimes we try to hold back a flood with a broom when we should be shutting off some faucets. There is no rest when you think so highly of yourself that you see other people (or even God) as the obstacle to what you think you must have.
· Are you viewing the hours you cannot sleep as a stewardship? If every moment is from God, then there are good ways to use those moments for God’s glory. God put Paul into sleeplessness (2 Corinthians 11:27) with a good design (2 Corinthians 12:10). He used insomnia to get important information across to Ahasuerus (Esther 6:1) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1).
· Have you thanked God for keeping you awake? Maybe the trouble is not so much the lack of sleep as it is your attitude toward your lack of sleep. Rest is certainly a gift from God, but has God wronged you if He gave it to someone else and not you? Maybe your attitude should be like Job’s (Job 1:21).
If your soul finds rest in God alone, that rest is yours even if sleep is not. You can live a life that pleases Him and find joy even if you do not find sleep. If you have turned to Christ for His forgiveness, your identity is wrapped up in knowing your name is written in heaven rather than in having victory over insomnia and feelings of depression.
Ten articles in this series: