Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry—New Devotional Book

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At a point in my life, I forgot how to sleep—or rather rest. When I entered the abyss of a mental breakdown in my early twenties, sweet slumber eluded me. Like an unfound treasure, despite the effort of a desperate treasure seeker, I would wrestle and fight to secure it without success.

My stuffed emotions, overthinking, and controlling ways finally caught up to me, and something broke inside. I was newly married and working a fulfilling job in a law firm; my life was shiny on the outside. But cue the oft over-used though true statement: “But on the inside,” I was cracking ruthlessly, stuffing whatever I could find—platitudes, positive snippets, or outright lies—into the cracks to keep the flood of feelings from breaking the whole vessel.

It worked for a while.

Until it didn’t.

I broke. And sleep, other than sanity, was one of the first things to go. With an overburdened body and mind, fear’s icy grip easily caught hold of my fragile soul and didn’t let go for a very long time. In the early stages of this new reality, there was one night I didn’t sleep, which turned into two, three, and finally four straight days without rest. At all.

Twisted with fear and tortured by anxiety while the rest of the world slept, it felt like the most painful joke of all—to be tormented when I was meant to rest. My anxiety-riddled mind had convinced me that sleep was dangerous because it meant I was no longer in control. After this, sunset to sunrise would become my most terrifying time.

Seeking Rest

I finally sought medical help and was given medication to help calm my brain and eventually put me to sleep. It was much needed and completely necessary during that time. After a while, I could sleep without it, but my new normal equated to stress rearing its ugly head and sleep sneaking out the back door. I would go on for years to have bouts with insomnia—I still struggle to rest well when life is incredibly stressful.

I’ve been a rest seeker since I forgot how to sleep those many years ago. I should say now that I didn’t “forget” how to sleep—clearly, we all have the ability to sleep intrinsically woven into our being. But I had forgotten how to rest well. For someone who has lived with obsessive thoughts and anxiety for decades, control is at the epicenter of my life. The idea of rest is counter to my very existence. And so I have had to learn what it looks like to seek not only rest but, most of all, the giver of rest. 

Giving up Control and Seeking the Giver of Rest

Living with a predisposition to anxiety means I like control. During the day, it feels like I have some semblance of control. It’s all smoke and mirrors, of course, but that’s the way it feels. I can outline my day, create a list, check each line off, and book every minute with productivity. But nighttime. Well, nighttime is different. My friend recently said, “In the middle of the night, it’s all black.”

Isn’t that the truth? Busyness stops when the sun goes down, but the busyness of our minds and emotions feel as though they’re just waking up. The darkest struggles we carry tend to wait until it’s time to rest to creep in. And then, “It’s all black.”

We go back to the places we wish would’ve turned out differently or the words we so desperately want to take back. We try to control the things that just can’t be controlled. This is precisely where God wants us to lay it all down and rest.

At the end of every one of our days, God asks us to deny our urge to be in control by accepting his gift of sleep. We acknowledge our limitations as we lay down our heads and desire for power.

The Invitation to Rest

I slowly began to see sleep for what it was instead of the dangerous thing my anxious mind had convinced me it was. It was a gift, a sweet, beautiful gift. God wasn’t tormenting me; he was inviting me to rest in his faithful arms.

A gracious and kind God created us to need rest. He made us with limitations, and the parameters of our capabilities are set firmly in our frames.

Sleeping says, “I am not God; I do not hold the balance of the whole world—or even my little world—in my hands.” No, someone already has that job. And dare I say, He’s pretty good at it.

Worshiping Through Rest

Yes, sleep is a humbling experience. In some ways, it is the greatest testament to trusting in God because we are most helpless when we close our eyes.

Resting well can be worship because it agrees with God that I am not Him. By choosing rest, I am humbly accepting my need, and in turn, I am honoring the One who built this need into me.

We as Christians speak often of serving; from the needy to other Christians, we speak well of those who exhaust themselves in service—as we should—but when was the last time we applauded those who sleep like babies?

There will be times in our lives when serving isn’t possible. At some point, we all find ourselves in a season where we can barely breathe, and catching z’s may be the only act of worship we can offer. Choosing rest when our future is uncertain is a sacrifice of our will.

During that dark winter of my soul, I found that the only worship I could offer was giving in to the rest God had invited me into. And that, my sweet friend, was enough.

Learning to rest well

I know how it feels to lose sleep over all the frightening possibilities—our world is scary. This thing called life is not for the faint of heart; the truth is, we will feel the icy chill of “what-if” from time to time. Jesus isn’t asking us to stick our heads in the sand and forget all our problems. No, he’s telling us to give them to him, trust the grace He will provide if and when they become reality, and go to sleep anyway. The simplest and most challenging form of worship is humbling ourselves enough to lay it all down and do nothing.

Let me pause here and say if sleep and rest are a struggle for you, that’s okay. God knows your heart, He knows your needs, and He will give you rest in time. Learning to rest well takes time and patience, so be kind to yourself.

Our worries are far from inconsequential to God. Quite the opposite, he cares so deeply about our burdens that he calls us to lay them down, even if it’s only during the night when we’re limp ragdolls. Our peaceful sleep is the ultimate trust fall in the direction of a God worthy of that trust.

This God, who became man, humbled himself to need rest as we do. He knows our fears and knows the scary. He stays awake, keeping watch so we don’t have to. I dare you today to try humbling yourself to the point of a rag doll. Be limp in his arms, dear one; give up, hand over the worry, and rest.

Sleep well, my friend, sleep well…

If you’re like me and can relate to losing sleep because of the worries that threaten your peace, I would encourage you to pick up this new devotional book that I am blessed to be a part of. Releasing March 26, you can click the link below to pre-order:

Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: 50 Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. 

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