Ok, I’m literally awake right now. It’s 4:09 AM and I’m making these notes. Well, I’m not necessarily awake when you read this BVN letter. But as I’m writing it, it’s still very dark and very quiet at my home. Do you have trouble sleeping? If so this letter is to you. If you’re one of those people that sleeps all night–you know, sleeps like a baby– then you won’t necessarily understand my point and might even think I’m a bit crazy to even bring it up. But for us others, well, I’ve been up since 2:18 AM. Over the past twenty-one years, I have written roughly 252 newsletters and, amazingly to me, more than a few have happened just like this one, at 2:30 in the morning. Oh, I love to sleep as much as the next person. Actually, when I go to sleep every night I always hope to sleep all night long, but I don’t have that happen very often. I just seem to wake up many nights in the middle of the night, and one of two things will happen. I will check the clock to see what time it is and roll over, and within five minutes I’m out like a light. Not every time but many times, I lay there for my IST (interrupted sleep time). I used to ‘curse the darkness’, well not literally, but I got frustrated trying to get back to sleep. Working at going back to sleep is infinitely hard to do. I used to try, but the harder I tried the more awake Ibecame. Then, years ago I started to change my behavior. I began to just relax and if anything, enjoy those times. I guess the thing that made me calm down so much was that I have had a few really wonderful experiences ‘in God’ as I lay quietly in the dark. If we’re not careful, we will eliminate half of a twenty-four hour day just because it’s night time. Night time with Him can often be rich with meaning.
Actually, I realized that many things associated with the Gospel happened at night; it didn’t seem to be just a day job for God. He’s not a 9 to 5 kind of God. Jesus was probably born at night, thus the star. Moses followed a pillar of fire by night as God led him out of Egypt. Nicodemus came to Jesus at midnight. The angel appeared to Mary in the middle of the night. Jesus prayed late into the late evening or very early morning just prior to his crucifixion. Many years ago, I had a terrific ‘awakening’ in the middle of the night. With that experience, I learned a new appreciation for being awake at night. You see, our sense of hearing, both the physical and the spiritual, can be keener in the night time. People that have lost their physical sight have an intensified hearing compared to other folks. They can hear things we just ignore or never take notice of. Likewise spiritually, late at night we seem to be able to hear more intently than during our busy daytime. Some of it is just the unique quiet at night. All day long we hear so many things, some loud, some soft, but all kinds of sounds and we blend them into our daily lives. But at night, quiet! (Well, except for the snoring of our dog Ivy or the fan on that contraption that my wife uses to put herself to sleep…the ever present bedroom humidifier).
I’ve learned to ‘roll with it’ in the middle of the night. If I should fall back to sleep quickly, that’s great. If I don’t, well I just begin to think, pray or ask questions of Someone I believe is listening. Just this morning I had that kind of night that leads me to Biblical questions. Just as ships use the stars to guide them at night, I believe God uses the night sometimes to guide us. I mean, I can hear better at night, I can get in touch with my heart so much easier than in the middle of the business of the daytime. Many times I discover what’s really bothering me. Sometimes I think about what’s interesting to me. Or, I might discover something that I had not paid much attention to before but something that needed my attention for sure. Now, I’m capable of letting my imagination wonder in the middle of the night, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about a quiet time that is inspired by my heart. Many times I believe God speaks to my heart at 3 AM in ways that I don’t usually have happen any other time of the day. Fact is, God does not take naps at night, does not sleep in the early morning hours. I’m sure He is still present and accessible for us in the middle of any night.
In the Bible, we read about a fire that does not consume. Many times our frustration about not getting back to sleep exasperates us. We wrestleand fight the ‘awakeness’ to the point of exhaustion. However, the Father’s ministry at night does not exhaust. The next morning after a night of peaceful reflection, we’ll not be consumed, but rather we’ll be restored, refreshed. Now, I’m no longer afraid of being awake in the middle of the night, not afraid that I might lose too much sleep. I use the time to be sensitive to the voice of God, and often during that time God will use that opportunity to drop something on me. Many times after a night like that, the next night is one of the most satisfyingly sound sleeps I get to enjoy.
I’m not implying that I go to bed each night hoping to be interrupted and restless. But taking advantage of that interruption and restlessness has proven to be pretty rewarding. If there’s nothing being whispered to your heart, at the very least you can worship or praise Him. Sometimes I do that and I immediately fall to sleep. I feel a bit guilty when that happens. But if you do worship, just don’t get so carried away that you wake the neighbor and especially the wife! And remember, when we worship, it’s not about where but Who we worship. The middle of the night is as good a time as any, what else is there to do any way, you already watched TV all night long. Don’t underestimate the opportunity to be ‘quiet before the Lord’ in the middle of the night. I haven’t spent one night in many, many years pacing the floor or getting angry for not being able to fall back asleep. Instead, I just lay and enjoy the moment. I anticipate a meeting and a peace that is not available for most of us during our hurried daily schedule. The night time is not as distracting since I can’t see anything but dark, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face!
Slow down, take a break, quit struggling, don’t judge the time, just relax. And instead of counting sheep and getting lost in the count or frustrated after counting 856 of those critters, just know that God is a 24 hour a day God and He probably has been looking for a place where you will slow down enough to hear His voice and your heart. 2:48 AM might just be the only time He gets access to you all day long. Chill!