“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” is a series of church worker wellness devotions. Visit lcms.org/wellness for more resources.
By Lisa Lessing, licensed professional counselor and pastor’s wife
Sleeplessness and night lights
“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:3–4)
I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night, getting a full eight hours or so of uninterrupted sleep and yielding a morning feeling refreshed and rested.
It’s a toss-up whether it will be a slow, drawn-out falling asleep or waking up later in the night.
Anxious thoughts stream like a ticker tape at the bottom of a news broadcast, and they keep me from falling asleep for several hours.
At other times, I may wake up later in the night and can’t get back to sleep — ticker tape still running.
Kids, parents, marriage, friends near and far, loved ones, the church, and our world all run on the tape.
Words, sentences, and images run together, recycling over and over.
What can quiet an anxious and wakeful mind during the night hours?
Beyond remedies — medical and homegrown — I have experienced a surprising diversion.
Six years ago, I spent a few days at a friend’s cabin, miles from a small town, light confined to candles or oil-lights.
When those lights were extinguished, the dark was remarkably overwhelming. I felt afraid. I dreaded bedtime even more. The solace of a glowing wristband held close to my eyes quickly faded.
There was so much darkness. I had anxious prayers, sleeplessness, and wakefulness.
My internal prayer was, “This is crazy, God. I think I may be truly ‘sore afraid.’ ”
A curtain-less window beside my bed drew my tired eyes to the sky. There was no moon.
But there were stars and millions of twinkling luminaries. I was awed and stilled by this sight.
In fact, a wonderful peace covered me like a warm blanket. As simple as it may sound, it was profound.
I lay there, in the pitch of night, star-gazing … and smiling.
It was an extraordinary experience. God’s starry heavens delighted and calmed me because they reminded me of His Word.
The Psalmist writes, “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:4)
Proverbs tells us, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” (Prov. 3:24)
It was as if He was saying, “Daughter, peace be with you. Do not be afraid. I am awake and watching over everything I have made, including you! I, your God, am with you. I am in control. Rest. I will hold your anxiety.”
Drowsy and tired, I now fought to stay awake!
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Ps. 19:1–4)
The night sky is wondrous. The earth rotates and star constellations move deliberately and with purpose by His hands. Many places in Scripture testify to the wonder of His creation written in the sky:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place …” (Ps. 8:3)
God, speaking to Job, asks, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” (Job 38:31–32)
The anxiety that drives my insomnia still hounds me. Maybe it hounds you, too.
In times of wakefulness, in the deep night stillness when the ticker tape rushes at me, I now look for these God-shaped night lights.
The Milky Way is 104,000 light-years across and contains more than 100 billion stars. To count them one by one would take a person more than 3,000 years.
And there are hundreds of billions more galaxies in God’s universe! They are gifts of God’s tenderness and care.
The next time the 2 a.m. ticker tape wakes you from sleep, look out a window or step outside and delight in God’s night lights.
Isaiah writes, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” (Is. 40:26)
He created them all and calls each one by name. He remembers you and calls you by name, too.
Lisa Lessing is a licensed professional counselor. She is married to Rev. Reed Lessing, who serves as senior pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Building Up the Body: Worker-to-Worker” devotions and prayers will be released Monday mornings on the LCMS Facebook and Twitter pages. Church Worker Wellness devotions will also be archived online.
LCMS church workers and their families are invited to offer encouragement to other workers and families by submitting a 500-word devotion for the Synod’s worker-to-worker wellness devotion series. Email questions and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.