Many years ago, I struggled through a time of sleepless nights.
Something stressful was going on - I was disappointed in love or worried about money or something like that. And every night I would go to sleep, only to wake up in the wee hours with my mind racing. I'd lie there, energized but also exhausted, ruminating on all my woes, until finally, just before dawn, I'd drift off, only to be jolted awake by my alarm.
I was frustrated not only about not sleeping, but about how irrational my exhaustion made me during the day. And waking up in the middle of the night became increasingly stressful in and of itself. I'd think, Oh, no, not again, and wallow in all kinds of discouragement. In the dark of night like that, your mind can wander to all your problems, real or imagined, present day or deep in the past. The wakefulness began to take on a life of its own.
What changed the situation for me was a kind of acceptance.
Do you remember these Bible passages? "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him," and "Resist not evil" (both from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5:25, 39). Those phrases have often puzzled me. What did Jesus mean - we should partner with evil? But I've begun to think of those nights of sleeplessness as possible examples of what he really meant.
I ultimately solved the problem by taking an approach that was both passive and proactive. I hit on the idea, Well, I'm clearly going to be awake anyway. I won't fight being awake anymore. I will, however, decide for myself what I'm going to focus on while awake. Instead of ruminating on my troubles, I'm going to use the time for spiritual contemplation.
The beauty of this was, of course, that it was the middle of the night. My family was asleep, I wasn't at work, I wasn't watching TV. In the quiet of my bed at 3 a.m., I had nothing to distract me but my own thoughts. And now I was going to focus those God-ward.
So the next time I woke up, I thought, I'm awake anyway. What does God want me to know right now?
I let my mind reflect on spiritual truths and embraced gratitude for the day that was past and the day to come. The stress that had awakened me evaporated as I relaxed into not fighting evil but instead imbibing Truth.
The wakefulness still came for many nights, but what a different time it was. I actually began to smile when I woke up, looking forward to this private time with God. The hours became infused with peace and assurance, comfort and gentleness.
This approach eased the stress in all aspects of my life. Although I wasn't sleeping, I was resting - resting in God's love and goodness. I felt I was living what Mary Baker Eddy wrote about in "Science and Health": "The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness" (p. 218).
Eventually my life evened out, and I began to sleep normally again. But the skill I'd learned of turning to God with my whole heart carried right over into my prayer many times after that. The peace of prayer became more readily available to me no matter what the circumstances.
"Resist not evil" - let God do the fighting for you. Train your thought on Him, and He will comfort you.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.