Heavy and icky, a sense of doom presses down on me. At night, it jerks me from my sleep with scenes from what-if scenarios raising my pulse as efficiently as any horror move while endless do-do lists scroll like credits in the background. By the time I am conscious if it, my head is throbbing, my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth, and my emotions have galloped over the cliff of sanity. The red eyes of my alarm torment: 2:38am – again.
In the wee morning hours, exhausted from the nightly battlefield, at last I drift into peaceful oblivion. Then, another shrill arousal, this time my phone signaling a new day. Groggy and hungover from fatigue, I stumble into the light, and though hope and faith chase away the night-terrors from my mind, their residue and threat of return constrict my weary body.
In the daytime, these two, hope and faith, shield me. Citing God’s unfailing faithfulness in the past and reminding me of His unchanging character throughout time, they reduce to manageable size the facts that nightmares distort into grotesque monsters. The circumstances inspiring all this have come and gone. The issues which years ago fed the sleep-savages were eventually resolved. Those that feed them now will be equally so.
Somewhere between the sober, safer practicality of day and the panic that prowls in the night lies the realm of reality where the soul is truly alive. At peace. “Where fears are still and strivings cease… No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand,” as Stuart Townend so poignantly describes.
But how do we live there?
Some experiences rip open tiny peepholes in the curtain that usually obscures the glorious from the mundane.
Facing her imminent death, we recently peeked into eternity at a dear sister’s deathbed. There, in the edge of her life in this cancer-ravaged body, the grey smog of “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19) gave way to bright sunshine of Heaven. Illuminating the soul of even the visitors, who must stay behind for awhile, we bask in the presence of the adoring Father who obviously caresses His daughter underneath the pain of her dying body. “It’s just my body that is sick,” another cancer patient explained, “my soul and my spirit are resting in the arms of Jesus, especially when I throw up.”
It incites me to enter that same rest, especially when I’m gripped in the fist of fear.
It ignites in me neglected longings for so savoring His presence that nothing else matters. More than the absence of fear, my soul is bursting out of its confines to bask in the light of His eyes and dance to music of His joy. To rise to the truth buried under the rubble of unbelief: Jesus, my Braveheart warrior-King and His army of angels are fighting on my behalf.
Yes, I’m a damsel in distress, as my nightmares remind me, but their doom is obliterated by the stronger reality that on the battleground of my life, the Conqueror of death and darkness is fighting on my behalf. Victoriously.
In the hospital threshold between heaven and earth, I heard Him so clearly emphasize what my spirit embraced in my moment of salvation and in times of enraptured worship:
“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14:14)
Into the battle for my sleep and the battle for every heart’s peace, the Lover of our Soul whispers His strategy, as He beckons us to trust His goodness:
READ HIS WORD.
Nothing pushes back the dis-harmonic voices of this dying chaos like the Word that spoke it all into existence and will stand when all else disintegrates.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
When the terrors attack at night, the Word of God is “a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19b)
2. MEDITATE ON HIM.
When demonic forces distort our problems into monumental nightmares, meditating on just who He is, shrinks them to nothingness in His hand.
Let the eyes of your imagination feast on this, until it’s a movie you can easily access to replace the films of fear otherwise hurled at you:
“I watched till thrones were put in place,
And the Ancient of Days was seated;
His garment was white as snow,
And the hair of His head was like pure wool.
His throne was a fiery flame,
Its wheels a burning fire;…
I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.”
(Daniel 7:9, 13-14)
“When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.”
3. SOAK IN HIS MUSIC
“Psalm 22:3 says that the King of kings is literally “enthroned” in our praises. Wherever God’s people come together to worship, we become a habitation for His presence. God comes to dwell where His people worship, and where that happens, all the weight of His glory, His rulership, and His dominion are present.” – Jack Hayford
“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” (1 Samuel 16:23)
4. CHOOSE GRATEFULNESS
When anxieties or other dark emotions rage, nothing subdues them as quickly and proficiently as changing channels – to gratefulness. Don’t analyze the darkness when it’s trying to overshadow you; chase it away by deliberately counting every single thing for which you are thankful. The more you do this, the more entitlement gives way to peace.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
5 RELAX IN YOUR WEAKNESS.
In and of yourself, you don’t have what it takes to prevent what you fear. Rather than frantically planning escape routes from the nightmare scenario tormenting you, there’s tremendous relief in simply surrendering the whole thing to the goodness of God:
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
If any of the debris that batters you contains bitterness, there is no way around forgiveness. What the enemy intended for evil in stirring up infected wounds, your Father will use for good, as He sheds light on the lurking danger of nursing a grudge.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Freedom is found when we “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
7. PRAY FOR OTHERS
A refreshing break from the self-focus often at the core of our nighttime condemnation, as well as a powerful instrument in forgiveness, intercession uniquely unites us with the heart of Jesus, “since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
“And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10)
“Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)