Proverbial wisdom says the darkest hour is just before dawn. That doesn’t make sense, since the darkest hour is probably equidistant between twilight and dawn, which would be the middle of the night. I suppose that statement is simply a colloquialism to encourage people through the darkest hours of their lives, an urging to hang on just a little longer and life will get brighter.
No one longs for dawn more than a new mom who cannot, because of her baby’s needs, get even two consecutive hours of sleep. Once dawn begins to light the bedroom, she can call it morning and officially get up. Coffee tastes good, and if she’s lucky, she can brush her teeth and get a fresh outlook on her life.
Linnea shared this morning how slow the nights go when she’s answering Micah’s need for frequent nursing, and how she longs for the sun to come up, indicating night’s end. Even though the demands on her as a mom increase once Skylar gets up in the morning, double-child daytime duty doesn’t overwhelm like single-child nighttime work.
New moms aren’t the only ones longing for dawn. Those who struggle with fear or loneliness seem to experience greater degrees of both during the night. Physical pain that torments the body and keeps a person from sleep is another reason to watch for the sunrise. Every life-negative looms larger during the night. Small concerns grow into overwhelming worry, keeping us from relaxing enough to drift into sleep.
God gives us specific encouragement for sleepless nights by reminding us he’s working on our behalf during those hours. He doesn’t get weary or bleary during the night or at any other time. Instead he offers ways to take advantage of these times when we feel completely alone and consumed by worry or are just plain exhausted. When our main concern is whether or not we’ll make it till morning, he lightens that darkness with promises that we will.
The psalmist David was plagued with middle-of-the-night sleeplessness, but his approach was to turn insomnia into conversation with God. He wrote, “I stay awake through the night, thinking about your promise [for mercy and rescue]. I rise early, before the sun is up. I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.” (Psalm 119:148 & 147)
During the night when we want to sleep and know we ought to, the only trustworthy comfort is trying to connect with God. Since we’re awake anyway, we might as well use the time for something valuable, like conversing with the Lord or meditating on his character. There’s no limit to what God can put on our minds, even to the point of removing our craving for sleep and substituting delightful discoveries on a spiritual level.
As for being short on sleep, God sometimes gives us double-value from little sleep. He expands our energy and ability to cope as if we actually slept long. Young moms like Linnea are perfect examples of this, sleeping in bits and pieces during the night then handling a busy agenda the following day. God will especially sustain and rejuvenate the one who is helping a brand new little one get a good start in life. But anyone who can’t sleep can count on God’s willingness to come into that night alongside them bringing unique blessing. And the good news is, weeks after nighttime rest has been restored, the middle-of-the-night gains from time spent focusing on God will remain permanently.
“Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’ But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn.” (Job 7:4)
“I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord.” (Psalm 119:55a)