Some people have a hard time getting to sleep at night. I, on the other hand, am one of those who usually falls asleep before my head hits the pillow. On those rare occasions when I do have trouble sleeping, however, it seems like my brain is going a mile a minute. I move from thought to thought and one worry to another. I’ve been known to write most of an article in my head trying to get to sleep on a hot night.
When it is hard to go to sleep, people try all sorts of things. Insomnia cures range from warm milk to cold alcohol, from counting sheep to singing lullabies. My father used to turn the radio to fire and brimstone evangelists. (I think Brother Al was more for the white noise than for getting to sleep, though.) I learned from a book by Lewis Carroll, who was a mathematician when he wrote the “Alice” books, to do complex mathematical word problems. The trouble is, these usually keep me awake more than putting me to sleep.
Quite often people have trouble sleeping because of worry. Did I forget to do something at work today? What do I have to do tomorrow? How will I be able to afford to send the kids to college? Why don’t we have kids? The list is endless. The problem is that such sleeplessness is unnecessary. If anything, it may indicate a lack of trust in the one who can handle all our problems. When we trust in fleeting riches and the things of this life, we have reason not to sleep. “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.” (Eccl 5:12)
God can help us sleep when we trust in him, because he never sleeps. “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps 121:4) When we put ourselves in the hands of the one who does not sleep we will not find it hard to do so ourselves. When we give our worries to God we will not be kept up by them. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” (Ps 4:8) Failing to give him our concerns is almost a guarantee that we will have difficulty sleeping. “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” (Ps 127:2)
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28) With that thought in mind, Solomon says that wisdom and understanding are sure-fire cures for insomnia.
So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken. (Prov 3:22-26)
The wise king here says that fearing God and departing evil will not only make you sleep. Your sleep will also be sweet. There is a sleep that is not sweet. Darius the Persian learned that when he threw Daniel to the lions, not trusting in Daniel’s God to save him. “Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.” (Dan 6:18)
There is a cure for insomnia. As someone has suggested, “When you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the shepherd.”