2:40 a.m. The red numbers glare at me through the darkness of my room, taunting me to try to get back to sleep. As I toss and turn, trying to get more comfortable, my mind clicks on like the rooster just crowed. Before I know it, my thoughts are off and running… trying to figure out the carpool schedule for the week, or when I’ll have time to finish working on a talk, or replaying a difficult conversation or just feeling exhausted and frustrated at the same time. Doesn’t God give to his beloved sleep? Why has this become a routine trial for me?
Insomnia has been the thorn in my flesh for a handful of years. Somewhere in the midst of waking up in the night to nurse babies or care for a sick child or tend to someone who had a nightmare, my sleep cycles were significantly altered. Being a mom has trained my ear to wake up at the slightest noise, and once I’m up, my mind turns on and it’s hard to shut back down. I’ve tried natural remedies, exercise, limiting screen time, reading and even prescription medicine to try to solve the problem. But most of the time, nothing really seems to have a long lasting effect. A frequent prayer request of mine is for better sleep. And some nights, that prayer is answered. I feel like a new woman when I sleep continuously for 6 or more hours. I’ve grown to be deeply grateful for a good night’s sleep. But the majority of the time, consistent sleep through the night has been a struggle. A struggle that can leave me feeling exhausted, discouraged and dependent.
God has a way of using our seemingly impossible trials in life to force us to be dependent on Him. Remember Moses’ call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? He felt totally ill-equipped and lacked the confidence he needed to move forward. He repeatedly argued with the Lord that he wasn’t capable of such a great task. “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue” Exodus 4:10. God tries to calm Moses’ fears by telling him that “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But still Moses begs for God to send someone else (Exodus 10:13). God doesn’t let him off the hook, but he nonetheless answers Moses’ request by sending Aaron to accompany him to speak to the people. He delighted to use a weak and insecure leader to deliver the Israelites from Egypt.
In the book of Judges we see another seemingly impossible task when Gideon is called to deliver the Israelites from Midian. Gideon points out to the Lord that his clan is the weakest in Manasseh and he is the least in his father’s house (Judges 6:16), yet God repeatedly tells him “But I will be with you…” Judges 6:12, 16. Gideon’s apparent disadvantage only becomes stronger when God decides that there are too many men on Gideon’s side to give the Midianites over to him. He doesn’t want Israel to boast in his own strength saying “My own hand has saved me.” Judges 7:2. So the Lord purposely whittles Gideon’s army down to 300 men, in order to make a miraculous defeat of Midian. In the weakness of a small and inexperienced army, God would get the glory by delivering the Midianites into the hand of Israel. Gideon’s dependence on the Lord showcased the power and strength of God.
And finally, Paul, who tells us of his own thorn in the flesh that he begged God to be rid of, reminds us of God’s overarching purpose in our suffering. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Cor.12:9. Paul had learned to boast in his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power would rest on him. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor.12:10.
My constant prayer to sleep through the night causes me to lean into the promises of God like nothing else. In the midst of my bleary eyes and lagging body, I’m pushed to rely on the Lord for strength. My lack of good rest has made me dependent on God in a way that I wouldn’t be if I normally got 7 hours of good sleep. Dependent on him for strength to get up and serve my family, when I really want to stay in bed another hour. Dependent on him for patience with my kids, when my body is feeling extra irritable. Dependent on him for self-control, when I’m tempted to eat a mountain of sugar and caffeine to keep going. Dependent on him for the time and focus needed to finish a writing project or preparing for Bible study. There’s a beauty to seeing our own inadequacies and realizing our need for the grace of God to uphold us. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” Psalm 84:11.
What trial in life has left you feeling depleted, exhausted and weak? How might God be pruning you to make you more like him through your weakness? Maybe you suffer from chronic pain or depression or a strained marriage. Take heart that God has a purpose in your suffering. He can use your weakness to make you dependent on Him. Let the suffering in your life push you to lean on the all-sufficient, all-wise and all-powerful God. For when I’m weak, then I am strong.