I usually am quick to fall asleep and sleep pretty soundly through the night. This fall, something changed. I started having trouble falling asleep. I’m not sure exactly what started it, but every night I would be bombarded with thoughts. They didn’t really seem like anxious thoughts to me, more like plans for what I was going to do for the next day. Or week. Or month.
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to plan out the next month of your life while you’re laying in bed trying to sleep. So after an hour of lying in bed awake, I would walk downstairs and pray and journal. I wish I could say that helped. There were some nights that I walked back up to bed after and promptly fell asleep, but there were many more nights that I still lay awake, thoughts running through my head.
Now, I am very familiar with Philippians 4:6-7, which says:
“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I genuinely tried to give all my anxious thoughts to God, but every time that I prayed about them and offered them up to him, I just felt more stressed and bombarded by them afterwards. I didn’t really know how to give my thoughts up and they were still there after my prayers.
I tried everything that I could think of to get to sleep faster: different positions, not eating before bed, counting sheep, doing sit-ups, taking a shower. Nothing helped. I’m not big on taking medications if I don’t have to, but I even tried taking a pill/vitamin a couple of times. It didn’t work.
Then one day I read a devotional written by Sarah Young. If you’ve never read any of her books before, I would highly recommend them. They will help you hear God’s voice and work through issues that you never even knew you had!
So anyway, the devotional started like this:
“Worry is largely a matter of thinking about things at the wrong time… To avoid wasting mental and emotional energy, timing is very important. If you think about certain things at the wrong time–for example, when you’re lying in bed–it’s all too easy to start worrying about them” (Young, 2001, p.176).
Don’t you just love it when God speaks directly to you like that? It always amazes me how he gives me just what I need to hear, exactly when I’m desperate to hear it. The devotional went on to say that you should tell your thoughts “not now” and direct your thinking toward God.
I had already tried everything else, so I thought, “why not”? That night, when thoughts of work and the bazillion other things I had to do crept in, I prayed for the thoughts to stop, told them to leave, then focused my mind on how amazing God is. The thoughts tried to creep back in a couple of times, but each time I told them to leave and refocused on Jesus, His love, and the awesome things that He’s done in my life. Five minutes later, I was fast asleep.
That was a few weeks ago. I’ve tried this a couple more nights since and every time, it puts me to sleep in less than ten minutes. And my sleep is so much more peaceful and restful than it used to be!
So if you’re having trouble sleeping, I would encourage you to try it. Refocus your thoughts on Jesus and pray for the peace that only He can bring. I can’t wait to hear about your results!
Young, S. (2012). Jesus Today. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.