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Longing For Sleep While Coping with Illness

Posted Oct 05 2012 1:10pm

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (Psalm 4:8).

The reception desk at my doctor’s office has a plaque that says, “Don’t take your worries to bed. Give them to God. He’s up all night anyway!” How I long for sleep. My body craves peace, rest, and deep sleep. No matter how much time I spend in bed, however, I never seem to feel renewed, for sleep that does come does not provide extra energy the next morning.

One of the most difficult changes to adjust to when you have a chronic illness is the fatigue that accompanies it. It is a constant struggle to push through life. I never take for granted any energy I may have, for sleep is something I rarely experience as a tool for refreshment. I will see how many dishes I can put away while I wait for toast. I never leave a room without something in my hand that belongs in another room. But regardless, I am still tired.

“Exhaust” is from the Latin root word which means “to draw out.” Yes, I feel like everything has been drawn out of me. I feel used up. It used to scare me to think that I would never know the level of energy I once possessed, but now I have settled into the fact that fatigue is my new normal. Just this week I have been more tired than usual and part of it is because I have had physical therapy two mornings. Getting in the shower sooner than usual exhausts me and driving, then doing the therapy, and driving home. While some may think, “It is just an hour-long appointment! How tired can it make you?” it is the culmination of all of the requirements to get there and get home.

My eyes crave darkness and stillness, but then when I get it I cannot sleep. While my emotions may long for the warm comforts of my grandmother’s quilt the reality is that it’s too heavy. And perhaps it is hardest to accept that, even if these longings were fulfilled, I would still awake wishing for more sleep, never feeling refilled. I want to fall asleep and awake feeling like I did “before illness.”

Fortunately, God understands this desire for sleep and renewal. The Psalmist David says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (Psalm 4:8). We have a God who will protect us, not only from harm, but from becoming spiritually exhausted and lacking renewal. Victor Hugo reminds us, “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”

God is always awake! Especially at 3 AM when I am awake again. No matter how tired I am, night comes and it is so hard to sleep. He understands the craving we have for peaceful sleep. I pray that He will provide that for you tonight. Regardless of how little sleep we may get, we can certainly feel a peace that takes away our heaviness of heart.

Prayer: Despite the pain, the insomnia, and the worries that come late at night, I can find peace in knowing that You will never leave my side, God. You are right there right beside me, wanting to encompass me in Your arms. Amen.

About the author Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She is gradually learning how to balance motherhood, family, illness, and ministry, but she still knows it will be a lifetime lesson. You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop .

What do you think of when you hear the word sleep? Frustration or refreshment? Weariness or renewal? Do you long for sleep and yet when night comes you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep? What do you do at 3 AM when everyone is sleeping but you?

Wishing for sleep? Here is over 50 minutes of relaxing Christian instrumentals on an album called “Experience Rest.” You may want to listen to a snippet of it now, and turn it on your computer to play tonight when you can’t get to sleep. In the comments section it tells you how to download the audio file to your MP3 player too!

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