"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God;
believe also in me." (John 14:1, NIV2)
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." (Proverbs 3:5-8, NIV2)
Where do you turn when all of your options have been exhausted? Who do you trust when your health seems to have taken a trip to the centre of the Earth?
Remember the unnamed woman who had an issue of blood for over 12 years? She turned to myriads of doctors, and not only did she suffer under their care, for in those days, medicine was far from ideal, but she also ended up spending every penny she had. And in the end, she found herself destitute, with her illness worse than ever. How many among us who read this are in a similar, desperate situation?
The good news is that we can take heart! The woman did, indeed, find solace! "And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.'" (Mark 5:25-28, NIV2)
Five years ago, after undergoing a sleep study, I was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. It was also noted that my legs are in constant motion when I sleep, and I toss back and forth continually, like I am in a continual marathon and dance recital! In addition, it was discovered that I don't reach the deep sleep stage very often, whatever that is. Zeroing in on the sleep apnea, the doctor prescribed a CPAP machine for me, along with some non-addictive sleep medication to help me fall asleep. All the other symptoms, however, were ignored.
It wasn't easy for me to adapt to wearing a CPAP mask during the night. Not only does it cover the entire face, but it continually blows a high-force stream of air on my face. And as I'm inclined to run marathons in my sleep, that seal of the mask against my face tends to break. Never mind the noise of the actual CPAP machine; I begin to feel like I'm leaky (and squeaky!) Airplane!
Still the CPAP did help me, and I wore it faithfully for five years.
Then the unexpected happened. I again began to experience difficulties falling asleep, and even worse, I began to feel like I couldn't breathe while wearing the mast and I would wake up gasping for air. Initially I was able to get myself back to sleep, but on Christmas Day of this last year, this gasping for air caught up with me. When I put on my mask that night and lay down in my bed, I began to suffocate, even though air was coming through my mask. My heart began to pound, making me feel as though I were about to take off into orbit, and faster than a bolt of lightning, I ripped the mask off of my face and bolted out of bed. I was experiencing my first full-fledged panic attack!
I went downstairs to try and calm down, but no matter what I did, I couldn't fall asleep. My thoughts were dominated by my anxiety, and although I tried to pray, I couldn't focus enough to make any sense out of my words. I went online, then, and I fed myself with hundreds of facts about apnea, sleep and anxiety attacks. Now these are great facts to know, but they were totally worthless when it came to putting me to sleep. I began thinking about how I could avoid this and that, and of course, this led me nowhere either. I experienced first-hand what it means to lean on your own understanding. This led me in never-ending circles, with no hope in sight, for most of the ideas that were forthcoming were ones that I had already tried. And they had already failed me.
That's when I began to realize that I tend to worry a lot. I thought I was laying all my burdens down at Jesus' feet (See Math 11:28), but all of these "planning sessions", as I called them, were nothing but numerous worries haunting my spirit.
That was the first step to me beginning to realize that I was heading for disaster. At that moment I was again able to pray, and I proceeded to give God all of my medical problem. I must admit that I added a brief little line to my prayer of faith: "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24, NIV2) The prayer was short, but soon I found myself sleeping upright in my arm chair.
I have no idea where this will lead, as I still have problems falling asleep, but I know I have nothing to be afraid off, for God will give me the strength to face each and every day, no matter how much, or how little sleep I receive. Truthfully, though this experience rated as a fear factor of 10, it has brought me even closer to my Lord and Saviour. Suffering can indeed lead us closer to Jesus, if we let it. As for falling asleep, that's now in His hands!
If you feel you can't pray, try it anyway. Not everything can be cured by today's medicine. Jesus can heal us, but far more importantly He will stand by us and give us the strength to face what seems impossible. Healing is not what is most important. Experiencing our Lord and Saviour more deeply than ever before will lead us to the inner peace that is so difficult to find in this world. David experienced God so deeply that he could honestly declare: "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalms 23:4, NIV2) and his life was far from being ideal! We, too, can experience that same inner peace.
Are you experiencing sleep problems? Don't count sheep; try talking to the Shepherd instead!
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