Posts

When I Couldn’t Sleep At Night

Written By Kim Cheung, China, Originally In Simplified Chinese

I had a heavy cold one Sunday night, and by nine o’clock—an unimaginably early hour—I was beginning to feel sleepy. So I hurriedly got ready for bed, and was tucked in before 10.

I thought that I could finally start catching up on my beauty sleep, which I had been short on for over a month. Instead, this was the beginning of my very first utterly sleepless night.

I tossed and turned many times. My body was tired, but my mind became more and more awake. All sorts of thoughts began harassing me, and I became anxious.

I attempted to reroute my thoughts, but was quickly overcome by all sorts of worries. Next, my anxiety began to turn into panic: there was so much to do this week, I had better get good rest; I can’t afford not sleeping!

After tossing and turning on my bed countless times, I got up to look at the clock. It was close to one! I sank into deeper anxiety.

Again I tried to fall asleep, and again I had no success. When I got up again to check the time, it was already close to two o’clock. I felt myself on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

I have never had such difficulty falling asleep. It was as if I could feel the activity of my every brain cell. Even though my body was at a point of exhaustion, my consciousness refused to turn off. In desperation, I began praying for God to save me. I cried out for a long time, but heard no answer.

Fear began to envelop me. I started wondering if God had abandoned me. I could barely breathe from the great pain of sleeplessness in addition to the physical exhaustion from my cold. And yet, more painful than either was feeling as if God had abandoned me. I cried as I laid in bed, wondering in my heart: Where are you Lord? Why have you left me?

After a long, long time, I checked my phone. It was some time after six. I opened my WeChat application, and posted a status: Only when we can’t sleep do we realize that sleep is a gift.

This was the first time in my life that I could not sleep for even a minute the entire night. And it is also the first time that I thought of the times where I did sleep as a blessing. I have always taken sleep for granted. I had never thought that being able to sleep is a gift as well.

But as I look back two weeks after this painful, sleepless struggle, I realize that it is a blessing from God. Here are three other lessons I learned through this experience:

 

1. I learned to be thankful

My greatest takeaway from this sleepless night was that sleep is great. I started thanking God every day for being able to sleep. I also realized that I had taken many things in my life for granted—being able to see, to hear, to join a long-distance race, etc.—I had never before thanked God for these things. Instead, if I was even a little displeased I would complain to Him. I thought that I deserved all this. I thought that if only I could obtain what I wanted, I would be happier. But the reality is different. All that is good and beautiful in this world is God’s grace freely given to me. An unthankful heart would only rob me of joy, and cause me to fall into self-pity and bitterness.

 

2. I discovered the limits of my control

This experience of sleeplessness has also revealed my desire for control. I thought I would get some beauty sleep, plan out my week, and that all would go according to plan. But when this did not happen, I was greatly frustrated—even feeling disappointed with God. And yet I forgot that He is in control of every part of my life:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:29-30)

When I examined my heart, I realized that while I thought of myself as someone who would follow God’s will in all things, in reality I wanted to have control over every part of my life. From how to arrange my day all the way to my plans for marriage, there is not one thing which I have completely surrendered control to God.

I once listened to a sermon series on idols. In the sermon, the pastor mentioned that one of the idols we worship is “control”. I never expected that God would reveal my sin of control through this experience of sleeplessness.

 

3. I saw that my understanding of God was based on my feelings

Because my cry was not answered in my painful sleeplessness, I was swallowed by a despair of “being abandoned by God,” and I cried for a long time. And yet, God’s promise for me is clearly written in the Scriptures—He will not leave me. “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).

When I rely solely on my feelings, my faith and emotions become unstable. God wants us to trust Him based on His words, not based on ethereal feelings. He is not present only when I feel like He is present. But He is always present with me, just as He promised. Even if sometimes, during great pain, I do not feel Him, I will still grasp tightly the promises in His words—that my heavenly Father will never abandon me. I should trust His words more than I trust my own feelings.

 

Since then I have not had an entire sleepless night again, but there are still times when it is difficult to fall asleep. When it happens, I no longer lose control. Whether or not I can sleep, I believe that my heavenly Father is with me. He loves me. He watches over me. When I can sleep, I thank Him. When I cannot sleep, I pray. I realized that that one experiences of sleeplessness has made me less anxious, and is truly a blessing in my life.

Learning to Love God in the Midst of Crises

We watched the waters rise around our home. After days of rain, with only more days of rain in the coming forecast, we decided to pack up what we could, and go spend the night at our neighbors’ in their upstairs guest bedroom.

We were maybe 20 feet from our home, but that night was a night of unknowing. The rain poured long and hard, and we were certain that when we went back home the next morning, we’d find inches of rain in our home.

But for whatever reason, our home didn’t flood during Hurricane Harvey; so many people had it so much worse than we did. But even so, the packing up of our home, turning away and leaving, not knowing what state it would be in when we returned. . . . All this unknown started an anxiety in me that would continue to unfurl and grow in the coming year.

A month or two later, we were driving home after lunch on a Sunday afternoon. There was some construction on our normal route home, so we followed the detour instead. It might have been the unclear signs, a new route, and I don’t know what else—but before we knew it, we had been hit by a car going really fast.

Shattered glass, air bags in our faces, several loud hard impacts, my niece crying out in the back seat. What took just a few seconds felt like an eternity, as we were tossed to and fro in the mass of metal around us.

We were okay that day, we walked away with cuts and bruises, but ultimately, what matters is that we walked away safe and alive. But the anxiety that had been sitting in my chest since Hurricane Harvey was awakened again that day. This time it was full-fledged. I allowed my imagination to walk down dark alleys, wondering “what if” this, and “what if” that.

The days and weeks that followed were dark for me. I would cry at a moment’s notice, afraid to think of what could have been, but not quite being able to stop myself.

We had just paid off the car that was totaled that day, and so we received a decent insurance check. We took that check and bought a new car; this new car would require a few years’ worth of car payments, but we were in a position to pay those, or so we thought.

Days after our purchase, my husband called me with the news. He had been let go from his job. This was completely unexpected, and it was done in a way that was very personal and hurtful. We loved my husband’s co-workers, and so in some sense, that day we didn’t even just lose a job, but our people too. Why was all this happening? Why did we keep getting knocked down, barely able to stand back up?

Loving God—affirming His goodness, clinging to His truths—in the midst of whys and crises is one of the hardest things we will ever learn to do. And it is one of those things that we often have to learn the hard way.

But how we respond in a season of hardship is shaped by the truths ingrained in us during the times that are not crises. The truths below became our battle cry at times, claiming what we knew to be true, even when it didn’t “feel” like it. May these truths resound in our hearts and minds as we walk through our days!

 

1. His Grace Is New Every Morning

During those difficult times, we learned to look for the small graces, the things we’d often take for granted: like a home that had walls and was not torn down to the studs. (I’m pretty sure I’d never thanked God for the walls in my home until after Hurricane Harvey.)

And we were also reminded that God takes hard, bad things all the time, and turns them into something good. So while the circumstances all around us were crazy, I have to say that our marriage only grew stronger and closer. I’ve never felt more David’s partner than during this hard season. And that was all because of God’s grace to us during this time.

Recognizing this grace enables us to love God, because we see not only that He cares and provides, but also that He redeems. We see that He is worthy of worship and praise, and thus, worthy of love.

 

2. God’s Goodness Is Not Dependent on Circumstances

The most difficult thing I learned during this year is that God is good regardless of my circumstances. Even if our home had flooded, God would still be good. Even if one of us were killed in the car accident, God would still be on His throne. He is not good only when things seemingly go our way. He is good and He is God, and nothing, no circumstance, can change that.

Sin and evil have infected our world, and because of that, tragic things happen sometimes, but none of that changes the truth that God is good, and that He wins in the end. God hates death, and in His new kingdom, death and sickness will have no place. Affirming and remembering God’s plan for us in the long run—that we are eternal, that we belong to Him, that our time in this world is not the end of the story—all of this helps us to recognize and acknowledge God’s goodness in the midst of difficulties.

 

3. The Valley Is a Place of Vision

During this time, I was reminded of a prayer from a book my professor had often used, called The Valley of Vision. The title prayer is a beautiful picture of how—though we might assume that being on the mountaintop gives us a better view—it is actually the valley that is a place of vision. It is when we are in our darkness that we can see His light. The poem reads, “. . . I live in the depths, but see you in the heights; Hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold your glory.”

The author continues and says that in the valley we learn that Jesus’ way, though it may be paradoxical to the world, shows us, “That to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart. . . that to have nothing is to possess all. . . that the valley is the place of vision.”

And so this is where my family sits, in the valley, trusting and getting glimpses of His vision for us. I’d love to tell you that this hard year has been tied up in a nice little bow and everything is perfect now, but that wouldn’t be the truth. Yes, things are definitely looking up, but we are in a waiting position, sitting still, lifting our eyes to the hills. Why? Because He is where our helps comes from.

May our love and affection for our wondrous Savior ever increase, even in the valley.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on learning to love God in the midst of life’s challenges. Click here to read about how another contributor learned to love God through grieving the death of a friend.

I Have Anxiety But I’m Not Alone

Title: I Have Anxiety But I’m Not Alone
Artwork by: Zach Stuef (@stuefcreative)
Description: 
We all worry, it’s a normal part of life. But sometimes this worry can overtake our entire being and result in anxiety. We feel out of control, paralyzed by the unknown, constantly triggered by the “What if’s?”.

How do you deal with your anxiety? In the midst of our panic attacks, how can we try our best to draw our focus to God’s promises for our anxious hearts?

Words taken from: I Have Anxiety But I’m Not Alone

 

Walking out of the metro station, I was suddenly met by foreign smells and swarms of people.

 

 

I felt my own thoughts being drowned out by the overwhelming noises and sounds coming from street vendors, bargaining customers, and chaotic traffic.

 

 

I struggled to find an alley or a side street where I could catch my breath. I was starting to hyperventilate and inwardly panic due to all the disorderly activity going on around me. Anxiety can be crippling for me.

 

 

Most days I don’t even want to leave my bed to face people and ministry responsibilities.

 

 

“God will never leave you” (Deut. 31:8), “God is always watching over you” (Ps. 121:5), or “God is your comfort in the storm” (John 14:27). But I never truly understood these truths until I started experiencing pain for myself. The peace these promises give has been instrumental in my growth and perseverance in life.

I can’t experience peace in trials if I’m not in Jesus, if I’m not resting in Him.

 

 

This isn’t to say that my battle with anxiety is easier or done with. Actually, far from it. I continue experiencing good and bad days every week. But I’m still here. And God is still providing for me. He is still bringing people in my life to push me forward. He is faithful even when I’m not. And He is still everything I’ll ever need.

At the end of the day, our present troubles are nothing compared to the glory set before us. Our future leads up to one thing: spending eternity with Christ.

 

3 Questions to Ask When Confronted with Fear

It was the darkest day of my life.

I was approached by a respected church member who threatened me, “Listen, Jap. This is our church and we were here before you got here. We will be here when you’re gone, so go back to your country. You don’t belong here.”

I had been at the church for four years. I was on pastoral staff. I knew ministry was tough, but had never experienced anything like this. I had heard negative comments in the past, but this time was different. I was scared. It felt like the church that once so loved me now rejected me.

My job was on the line, and my family was threatened. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change anything, and my fear only grew and intensified. I felt trapped. I felt hopeless.

I prayed to God, “Am I under attack by Satan? Are You working to move me to another church? God, I am so discouraged. I feel so low in my spirit, filled with a sense of emptiness, I am ready to quit. God why are you silent in my fears?”

As I submitted my fears to God, He comforted me, and here are three questions I learned to ask from the experience.

 

1. Why Do I Feel Fear?

In a nutshell, I felt fearful because my thinking wasn’t right. In fact, in the midst of my circumstances, I wasn’t even thinking about God! When on occasion I did think about God, He felt neither good nor close. I felt like God had forsaken me. I was letting my circumstances and situations affect my understanding of who He was.

The Bible tells us again and again not to worry: “Do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25); “Do not worry about what to say” (Matthew 10:19); “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6); and many others. So why was I afraid?

I was afraid of what this world could do to me. In my own little world, I was so worried about what men might do that they became big in my mind, and God became small. In the midst of possible rejection, attacks or oppression, I completely left God out of the picture.

Fear is not just a horizontal problem—a problem of our circumstances or situations. Fear is actually a vertical problem—a problem in our relationship with God.

 

2. What Lies in My Heart?

Our knee-jerk reaction is usually, “get out of the situation!” We want to shift gears and avoid our negative emotions by changing our circumstances or situations, the people we surround ourselves with, our hobbies, our career, our possessions.

However, Proverbs reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). When we respond to what life throws at us, our words and actions point back to what’s in our hearts. When I complain about my situation, what is hidden in the deep compartments of my heart are made evident.

Much of my fear revealed how far my heart was from God, and how close it was to the world. I thought my circumstances dictated how my heart responded, but that wasn’t true. The problem was that my heart submitted to my circumstances, instead of looking beyond them.

As I looked to the Bible, it became evident that my fear was magnified when I did not look to Christ as the source of all my hope and all my healing. Instead, my heart had made an idol of the approval of man, and could not see beyond the circumstances.

 

3. How Should I Respond to Fear?

The antidote to fear is the Father’s unconditional love. I need not dwell on my own imperfections and inadequate response to my circumstance. Instead, I needed to dwell in the abundance of God.

How do we do this? We remember God’s past provision in our lives as we look forward to His hopeful future. When we are hopeless, Scripture reminds us “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I needed to surrender the idol in my heart, and let God take the throne. When I refocused on God, He became so much more pleasing, beautiful, astonishing, lovely, glorious, and breath-taking! This enabled me to overcome my sinful fear and experience true freedom.

Dr. Stuart Scott, one of my professors in seminary, said it well, “Hope is not defined by the absence of hardship. Rather, hope is found in God’s grace in the midst of hardship. Hope is found in his promise to give us a future.”

God used those moments of fear to make me more like Christ. In fresh ways, God pointed out the work that Jesus has accomplished on the cross. In the midst of the imperfections of this broken world, we all need reminders of the death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ. When we do so, Jesus’ perfect, faithful, steadfast, and undying love becomes the strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

That is the reason the Psalmist can cry out, “For I was envious of the arrogant. . . Until I went into the sanctuary of God!” (Psalm 73:3, 17).

Why this hardship of fear in our lives? Ultimately to bring glory to the Father by redeeming His people from the curse of sin.

 

Faith Instead of Fear

This storm I experienced revealed once again my need of the Savior. Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness and drew me ever closer to Him. In a divine moment, God allowed calamities and suffering for the sake of humbling my heart and bringing me back to holy reverence.

Maybe you know someone who needs to hear this, or maybe you yourself needed this reminder.

Even when things are not going the way you had hoped, you can still have hope in the Lord. God may not change your circumstances, but God promises to give us the perseverance needed to face tomorrow.

During that season, God did not change my circumstances. But He gave me His peace which surpasses all understanding, and that protected me in the midst of the storm. My future was no longer guided by the fear of giving up. Jesus became the source of my hope.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

If you’re facing fear in your life, be encouraged. God will give you comfort and draw you close to Himself.

You’re not alone in your fear and your struggles, and I want to encourage you to take a moment today to turn to the Lord in prayer.