Darkness (unabridged)

When was your last sleepless night? For my neighbors it was last night. She is pregnant and the baby is not developing properly.

For me it was about a month ago. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and caught pneumonia *. The result was violent coughing, choking, and a week of sleepless nights.

Several years ago I was confronted with a series of nights awake. At first I was inconvenienced, then I got worried, eventually I fought panic.

The loss of sleep was due to back pain and I feared it would not get better. The panic set in as I contemplated how I was going to make it without adequate sleep and endure the increasing discomfort over the long term. I wandered the house in the dark with the devil prowling after me seeking defeat and a kill.

But God was sufficient.

Have you ever noticed those two words—“but God”—in Scripture? They are two of the greatest words to ever form a phrase. “But God raised Him up.” “But God demonstrated His love.” “But God chose.” “But God comforted.” “But God had mercy.” “But God said.”

Years back, God was sufficient in my sleepless nights. The darkness did not swallow me and the pain and fatigue did not consume me. I don’t know how He did it, but I functioned quite normally for a period of several weeks averaging only two or three hours of rest per night.

When the pneumonia of last month and its symptoms finally demanded it, I retreated to my chair leaving Dianne and the dog to hold down the bed. Not only was I not sleeping, I was also very sick. If I drifted off for more than a few moments, I would awaken choking and fighting for a breath. This was followed by coughing, coughing so intense I broke several ribs before the pneumonia was expelled.

But God was sufficient.

I read—or finished reading—five books, three of which rendered wonderful, spiritual gains in my life.

I prayed. I walked the streets of my neighborhood at 3:00 AM with only the distant sounds of the city carried on the night air and listened to Father without interruption. We talked about things personal, things related to my profession, things related to my family, and things not related to much of anything. While I missed Dianne and suffered some loneliness from about 10:00 until midnight, once the deep night descended I relished the treasure of uninterrupted darkness to share with God and Him alone.

Again, I don’t know how He did it, but over the course of seven days, with only a pittance of sleep each night and day, I flourished deep in my soul. The dark depths became a treasure I actually anticipated. True, I bordered on a bit of nausea from sleep deprivation and my pneumonia certainly wasn’t getting any better, but in my heart I was triumphant.

While a profound battle raged around me—both physical and spiritual—I focused on Father. Every ten or fifteen minutes I was reduced to a coughing, choking heap on the floor with my head held low to keep from passing out. The fractured ribs stabbed me with each cough and desperate breath. But God not only comforted me, He also met me in my dark place.

Isaiah’s statement is one for dark and desperate occasions: “I will give you the treasures of darkness / And hidden wealth of secret places, / So that you may know that it is I, / The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name (45:3). David seconds Isaiah with this from Psalm 18:11: “He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, / Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies.” Take special note that when sleep evades us it is God who calls our name and invites us to share His secret place.

On the evening of the seventh day with pneumonia I stood alone at the kitchen sink with a new battery of medications. I read their labels and considered what the doctor told me their effects would be. My sleepless nights were over.

I turned and stared through the dark dining room, into the darker living room, and even darker den and wept warm tears. I knew the medications would bring the sleep my body craved, but I also realized the treasure of the nights alone with Father was over for the time being. For the first night in six I would miss our rendezvous.

God often interdicts in order to invite us into His life. As He is prone to do, when He interrupts our timeliness with His timelessness, He returns benefits many times over by placing eternity in our souls to replace the routine of our days.

When was your last sleepless night? Was it filled with fear, doubt, dread, worry, panic; a temperamental and irritable morning after?

It may be Father desires to share the treasures of darkness with you in order to illuminate your heart and enlighten your soul. His sufficiency and the unquestionable sound of His voice in the night, calling your name, invite you to the light of His presence and the illumination of His life.

* The pneumonia is an archived story from 2002