Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Month: December 2023

Sleepless Nights

Everyone has them. Nobody likes them. Those nights when for some reason, inexplicable or otherwise, one simply wakes up at 2-ish or 3-ish or 4-ish and can’t go back to sleep. Maybe it’s leg cramps, or back pain, or something stirring, or the spouse snoring, or for no discernible reason. Sometimes having a reason only makes the situation more absurd and less tolerable. 

The Bible refers to sleep sleeplessness many times.

  • Paul spoke of suffering many sleeplessness as a “side effect” of being an apostle (2 Corinthians 6.5). Most likely the burden of his ministry had this effect.
  • Solomon described insomnia as an effect of old age: “One will arise at the sound of the bird” (Ecclesiastes 12.4).
  • Sometimes illness keeps us awake. Job’s illness, the result of Satan’s affliction, caused him much sleeplessness – “But the night continues, and I am continually tossing until dawn” (Job 7.4; cf. 30.17; Ps. 102.5-7).
  • Jacob complained of being too cold to sleep – “Thus I was: by the day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes” (Genesis 31.40).
  • And, of course, stress and anxiety are big eye openers (pun intended): 
    • “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted… you have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77.2, 4).
    • “Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2.23).

All of this isn’t to say that sleeplessness is always bad. If you’re awake at night, spiritual songs can help. “I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, and My spirit ponders” (Psalm 77.6).

If you’re awake at night, think about God. “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently” (Isaiah 26.9).

Finally, if you’re awake at night, find something constructive to do. In the book of Esther, King Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep one night, so he arose and read from the royal archives (Esther 6). In doing this, he discovered an unrewarded act of heroism by Esther’s kinsman Mordecai. This becomes a turning point in the book. Here, insomnia created an opportunity for good.

So, the next time you can’t sleep, remember that you’re in pretty good company, biblically. And while you’re up, make it worthwhile. Pray a prayer. Sing a song. Do something constructive.

Seven Words

“Teach her as many of the 700,000 words of the English language as you have time to but be sure she knows that the greatest word is God; the longest word eternity; the swiftest word time; the nearest word now; the darkest word sin; the meanest word hypocrisy; and the deepest word soul.”

To Lt. Cdr. J. P. Carr, from his father, on the birth of the younger Carr’s daughter.

God. Eternity. Time. Now. Sin. Hypocrisy. Soul. 

These are more than words, they’re realities. They attempt to encapsulate the most profound and important concepts that we humans face during our earthly existence. They’re small words that describe great ideas.

The infinite God has communicated with finite humanity through the medium of language, by means of words. Jesus himself was “THE WORD”: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1.1). He was God’s ultimate communication to us. 

In a similar way, the Bible is God’s word to man. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17.17). By means of these words, God has conveyed what’s truly important and valuable. Wrap your head around that. Eternal truth expressed in finite, human language. 

I’d like to challenge you to do two things. First, think about the seven words from our starting quotation: God, eternity, time, now, sin, hypocrisy, and soul. How have these words shaped your life? How do you use them as motivation for spiritual living? 

Second, make out a list of seven other words that challenge you, define you, inspire you, or even terrify you. What are the significant words in your life? Make your list and for the next week, think about one word each day. Consider how this word affects you. Look at how the Bible treats the word or concept. Think about what you can do with that word to change your life for the better.

George Herbert said, “Good words are worth much, and cost little.” For today, and every day, take time to think about the important words that shape your life.