How to Solve Sleepless Nights and Unexpected Sorrows

So what’s been keeping you up at night? Sleepless nights . . . we’ve all been there: lying awake for hours, tossing and turning, tangled in our sheets as our thoughts and emotions twist up into tight knots.

Sleepless Nights
(Image from Pixabay)

We try to self-medicate, but . . .

  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Smoking
  • Whatever-ing

Doesn’t keep us from restless worry.

When God’s Ways Don’t Make Sense

During our worry-induced insomnia, the talking-to-God thing can leave us far more irritated than inspired; after all, He could have stopped this thing that’s plaguing us. Why didn’t He stop . . .

  • Your spouse’s affair
  • Your assault, rape, violation
  • Your friend’s betrayal
  • Your child from being physically or sexually assaulted
  • The unfair labels slapped on you by folks at church
  • Your spouse from abusing you
  • The drunk driver who killed your loved one, yet walked away without a scratch
  • The person who successfully sues and slanders you, when you are innocent

The shattering, unexpected circumstances we may face can make or break us . . . literally.

I will never forget my worst sleepless night. I was wallowing in suffocating, strangling anguish because earlier that day I’d learned that my son with disabilities had been repeatedly and mercilessly assaulted and sexually abused.

I had vowed this would never happen to my son. But the worst had happened.

Suddenly Slammed

All of us have endured something unexpected and painful. When we get suddenly slammed, we may go through terrifying emotions—hate, anger, disgust, terror.

I’ll just say, talking about these raw emotions at church will sometimes elicit raised eyebrows from some church members. Reason being, lots of Christians find it difficult to accept and understand when a fellow Christian reveals his or her raw emotions.

Some Christians tend to “super-spiritualize,” judge, misquote Scripture, offer blame or shame, or try to fix the problem instead of walking with them with grace through the process of healing.

Jesus: Our Greatest Hope

Well, I’m here to tell you that healing is possible. It’s hard. It takes time. It will be a struggle. But you can heal through the power of Jesus—the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief. Jesus, who asks us to come to Him when we are weary and heavy-laden, promises to provide rest for the weary.

For me, it’s a choice I must make over and over and over because I’m bent toward bitterness. I want revenge and vigilante justice—both of which Christ tells us is His job, not mine.

Somedays that’s easier to accept than others. If you struggle with that, I welcome you to the process of transformation. Come along with me . . . we’ll walk this together.

Walking Together

(Image from Pixabay)

Believe Me: I Know These Can Help

For the wounded:

  1. Examine what beliefs, rights, or values have been violated. For me, my desire to protect my child was violated, as well as my family’s privacy. I had always believed that I had the “right” to justice. Not so!
  2. Truth be told, I believed and put my hope and trust in the legal system and doctors. The truth is that every human-made organization is flawed because we are flawed people. Only God is all just, and He promises He will have the final say, not us. Scripture says our hope must be in Jesus Christ, the promise of His sovereignty, His justice, and His gift of eternal life. I couldn’t find promises that said, as a Christian, I was entitled to safety and security, privacy and protection. What I did find is that my choice to trust in Jesus Christ means God will always be present in my pain (Psalm 34:18–19), that our suffering is not wasted, and our God has a good plan even though it may not be revealed right now.
  3. Pray honestly. You won’t surprise God. He knows, so let it out. Practice unburdening your troubles through prayer. Pray Psalm 4. If you can’t find words to pray, pray Psalm 77.
  4. Find strategic ways to deal with negative emotions. Seek an excellent therapist for trauma therapy, exercise, hit a punching bag, scream into a pillow, cry your eyes out, tell God everything you are feeling.
  5. Establish a plan for events that trigger your pain. Have someone to call, a place to go that is safe, a journal, or an outlet that calms you when emotions are fired up.
  6. NEVER stuff your feelings, expecting them to go away. Develop coping mechanisms that build resiliency and strength, as God will use you to help others in time.
  7. The hardest of all . . . forgive. Let go of the enemy of your story. Surrender your rights to the One who gave up all the rights of heaven, died on earth, and rose again so we may have eternal life. Allow forgiveness to be a teacher, not a cure-all. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, that all is well, that nothing happened, that the offender is off the hook. Forgiveness means we learn to live as Christ . . . humbly surrendered to the path God allows us to walk.

For those who come alongside the wounded:

  1. Learn to persist in uncomfortable situations. Not everyone will respond to wounds exactly like you would; sometimes that is uncomfortable. So ask the Lord to guide you through the discomfort.
  2. Listen, show up, say little. Never tell someone who is struggling how he or she ought to respond to his or her situation. Listen and reply empathetically.
  3. Don’t blame the wounded person’s level of faith. Don’t assume this person is struggling because of sin. Don’t misquote Scripture to him or her to make yourself feel better. Remember Job. Remember Jesus. We live in a fallen world, not in a world of karma. You come alongside this person to care, not to fix.
  4. Allow the hurt person to vent. Don’t judge him or her. Give him or her space to quicken the healing process.
  5. Provide services—meals, groceries, house cleaning, lawn mowing, playtime with kids. Showing up in these ways means more than you can know.

Let Me Hear from You

I want you to know you matter; your pain matters. Your life is in process, and that matters. Jesus and a loving community can help ease your burdens and give you the rest you long for.

If you are in the pit, please reach out, and I will listen. If you wonder how to help someone or your church needs guidance to help the hurting, Insight for Living Ministries has countless resources on our Web site.

So what’s keeping you up at night? Let’s walk this road together.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Leesa

    Colleen,
    I am so sorry. It brings me great sadness to learn of this terribly painful truth for your son and your family.
    Your family are so Loved, I send you such great Love for sharing your families deepest pain of this terrible trauma of abuse.
    Thank you for having the courage to share, and this is so healing in itself as hard as it is to talk about, sharing this most difficult subject.
    I am grateful that you have been so open,always real and true with me and so many, there is a handful of those greatest imitators of Christ that we are provided by His glory and you were able to be there for me as designed to be with regards to much of what most all people Christian and non Christian I found had great difficulty hearing, acknowledging and finding within how to provide comfort in simple unconditional love.and accepting solid truths, to know how to care for someone without taking advantage during this pain too . I can say you were there for me in this exact way , I thank you. forgiveness in end did set me free, after 52 years of carrying it kept me a prisoner and I was so blind to that being the one answer, only with Christ Jesus working through you and the forgivenss I found,His calling and being with me was all that made this entirely possible and the greatest gift of all.
    With Much Love, genuine care and support for you and your family,
    Leesa

    • Lee,
      Your words mean so much…thank you. Yes, this was the most difficult time of my life…I thought I would never smile or laugh again. Yet, through wrestling it out with God, I’ve come to full forgiveness and actually pray for the abuser. Some days are easier than others to do that; but, if Christ has forgiven me and counts sin as sin (not sin on different levels-it’s all sin), then I certainly am called to forgive and continue learning. I’m so glad you have been freed from the knotted web of bitterness. How the enemy uses that root to destroy us. If there is any redemption in the story it’s that God has set us free and is able to use us for others who feel so very alone. We all struggle, we all need one another.
      You are always so very kind and thoughtful in your words. Blessing upon you my friend. Colleen

      • Leesa

        Colleen,
        I know that there are tender times with few words that truly communicate the comfort we need and that I am wanting to express and give , behind the page an emotion that builds up of empathy and sorrow that I am glad can be felt as received.
        I am so glad that you have shared for we are warriors, your son the greatest warrior.
        Christ suffered in ways that we have grown to know through our own depth of suffering, and how we have gained the rare gift of tender empathy, great compassion and loving care, that we would perhaps not have had otherwise this tenderness and depth and as you say the ability to touch another so deeply to help along such a life challenging and changing path with years of healing, and forgiveness. His comfort is what truly changed me, and I am so very glad to know you and have received such warmth and loving care through Him from you, and that you have had the foundation through generations that supported you in this most difficult process, and that our Lord filled your life with your son and family together with this one of the greatest Blessings. knowing and living together with that bond of Love that is His, the greatest hands to heal. Also I believe that we have enriched our lives with the very ripe fruit of friendship all through His work. If I knew scripture as well as you have shared in your post I could share as well….working on that, in fact I want to buy another Bible that truly has greatest teaching of His word in highlight for my greater understanding so can start page one as my Pastor says and read like a book all way to last page. I do love “pray honestly” for this process of healing takes time, we all are individuals ,although understand this process , and the Psalms, 4 and 77 speak most real and true , that you have shared. Times I remember your support and not truly knowing what I was in the midst of, so much ,so long. The freedom as you always described as Spring blossoms did arrive in forgiveness, when life seems like it is beginning again.
        Thank you for your kind thoughts of me! you are a tremendous lady and my world’s famous imitator of Christ and that is the answer. That I truly believe is the answer. to surrender all to our Lord and have these heart wrenching conversations with Him whether during sleepless hours, or unraveled days that can just beg for obedience to forgive and what is like torture of the soul but we did it! This I can see Is rare, but the beauty of this is amazing gift of Christ Jesus. There are moments not having had the family support or belief in me that come still at times and even that I bring to God and ask help me let go and I too pray too for these individuals who are not saved or believe they are Christians but are not truly knowing what that means to be saved, and I am able to see are truly blind to Christ compassion and empathy. I find doing the same power of prayer and surrender.
        There will always be days but we resonate to those who are ever so soft and loving to show us the best imitation of Christ here on Earth as it is in Heaven. and you I know are one of those great imitators I resonate, and you are so very LOVED.
        With Loving care
        Leesa

        • Lee,
          Tears filled my eyes as I read your tender words. Yes, many days are difficult but knowing we have Christ and we have other believers who support and love us is the only way we get though. I want to also mention that Christ had family struggles as well. His half-brother James-who authored the book of James-didn’t accept him until he was an adult. There were so many who never accepted or understood our Lord; there is much comfort in knowing he understands EXACTLY what we are enduring.
          Thank you for your unconditional support and kind words always shared! They warm my heart and encourage me on days when I am down. You are a treasure. Colleen

      • Leesa

        Colleen,
        there was something else I wanted to share. one being the warmth of those members of my new Church are remarkable. It is agreed amongst members that this Church is different ,it is a requirement to be truly saved, that your heart and soul are filled with wanting only to Love Christ and it I can see in those actions and words of others that this is the purpose of all I have met there. A gal I met this last week came up to me and the woman I was speaking with was her aunt. They both were tender and loving, and I was astounded one said I had the most pretty eyes, the gal that came up to us said I was so beautiful from the inside out, and she exclaimed I hope that you do not think I am weird, all I could think was no you are just as if I am looking in the mirror ,how I treat others was the way this gal was speaking so openly and genuinely expressing unconditional thoughts of me and with me. It was incredible and the warmth I so speak of that we resonate and that we are so BLessed when it appears in our lives as what is so restorative even if they do not yet know my story, it is this astounding remarkable genuine loving care and kindness .
        This gal continued sharing that she had just been praying for God to send her a friend,and she said to me , you are the friend God has sent and she began to tear up ,she was so thankful and filled with that awe of GOd’s answer to her prayers she had just said. So we have exchanged numbers and texted a few times and will connect again soon. I prayed myself to be surrounded by those that are true Christians like you Colleen, that are so filled with His love and genuine care, and this gal has also come to me I am hoping as this new friend here at Church. Her aunt is pretty cool too. We all connected as if of the Spirit of God and only through the spirit of our Lord Christ Jesus.
        I also wanted to say that one of the precious posts mentioned the Umbudsman. I had talked to him directly by telephone a year back. I had to let much of this go COlleen also for it was not showing me signs of opening any doors. the govt program did not cover realestate and the one that offered assistance I had an IRA which was part of assets they looked at for approval ,and although not much it was not assistance of free attorney counseling I could acquire. That was why it was so difficult for me, there were so many doors shut in my face. it was last minute I found the attorney I do have. I did have to sign that release that I was uncomfortable,he stated that is standard with settlement, I had to again let it go. I found in all this house stuff,that I would hear myself say, God is using me to expose this person who sold me this bad situation of a house with undisclosed issues he knew of. and I listened to myself and I really believe it comes from this abuse issue that almost I was making every effort for justice to make up for not ever having the “physical” justice of the abuser in court or forlack of family to be acting of my belief and behalf. I learned I did all I “thought I was supposed to do as an adult for justice and to protect others and to expose this person” and trust God will do His justice, in end I saw I needed let go of those doors not opening as clearly hitting many walls and expending so much energy each way was going, and this attorney I have I needed trust that God has led me to for what He will provide through this process and I had to let it go to be as it will now be. As you said in one of the posts it is maybe not in this life with smaller amounts money coming to me in settlements, although I am grateful for any money, it will come later in livng in everlasting life’s value. I will continue pray daily twice daily, for all house to come together and the abundance needed to reapir come and I can only pray for “how” to come softly in way of knowing how to remedy mold, that one source that just is available that only God can provide without another long search , and if HIs will I am trusting He will show me, or not, and if He does not that will mean that I will just have the repairs made and that the door of that professional mold remediation being shut may mean what we have spoken of and that is that there are many scams out there and the remediation is set up that may not always be necessary. I will keep you updated on this….I believe by Fall repairs will be beginning. Roofer court date last complaint coming end AUg beginning sept. I will let you know date ok.
        I just wanted to let you know
        Take care today and have a Blessed afternoon and evening with your family.
        Lots of loving care your way and an incredibly gigantic invisable hug of warmth and loving care,
        Leesa

  • Julie Darling Winkle

    Hello Colleen,
    It’s been a bit since I last wrote, but my husband and I both read your email today and were greatly affected by it. We’ve spoken of our son before, Noah. He’s 17 and pretty severely autistic. We’ve had many sleepless nights (literally) lately.

    So many changes in our family as of late, some good, some not. Let me bring you up to speed a bit…

    *Our senior pastor had a heart attack in May, sadly (for us) but glory for him, he went to be with the Lord a few days later. We miss him dearly. During the transition time for our church, it became apparent that the Lords plan was for my husband to become the new senior pastor. The church body has been overwhelmingly supportive and the Lord has made the transition as smooth as it could be. That being said, it is a big change and working through Noah’s issues and a small church body has its challenges.

    *Noah’s recent visit to his psychiatrist has brought up another possible diagnosis that I feared, but am not surprised at the possibility. His very up (manic silliness) and down (screaming uncontrollably) behavior, and some family history of bi-polar disorder. Not to mention the onset at late teens for many… still going through transition and working through possible medication changes or additions. It feels like a very heavy load.

    As I read your words, I became overwhelmed by the immensity of it all… I will be praying for you, your family and for God’s continued grace upon you all. Thank you for the realness and honesty of your words. They were a welcome watering in what has been a dry patch for me…

    With love in Him,
    Julie Winkle

    • Julie,
      My heart just hurts for you! Truth be told, it seems God allows us to come to the complete end of ourselves….exhausted, confused, frustrated. I’ve come to find in my life, God’s greatest strength shows up when I’m flat out done, can’t go on! We live in such a “capable world”…it doesn’t honor stillness and being broken. Thus, we easily feel defeated when we cannot go on. What really has happened is our human abilities are gone, giving full space for God to fill us up with HIS strength. Sometimes it happens right away; other times I look back and His grand work is made clear.
      The loss of your pastor is heartbreaking, I’m so sorry. As you said, he’s home in glory; while still on earth it’s so very hard to experience loss and more loss.
      Your sweet Noah…oh my! The teen years usher in a flood of unexpected behaviors and rushing hormones. As if it wasn’t already difficult….I sometimes just cry cried for Jon because this life is far more difficult for him than I can imagine. And then more comes in…I get it! Please know, you are not alone. No one has written a script for this life of ours; perhaps if they had, we would be tempted to follow the script rather than our Lord’s direction-as crazy as it seems at times. I don’t know what he is taking as far as medication; that may be a comfortable issue to discuss and may not for you. I’m fine with it either way; I just want to help. We have learned about some over the counter medications that have worked wonderfully for Jon. I learned about them from Joe Padilla who I interviewed a couple years ago. His wife was on 6 medications, bi-polar and more; they were at their end. The Mental Health Grace Alliance organization was formed from all they endured. He told me about SAMe, a natural product that helps with depressive, obsessive-compulsive, mood swing issues. We have given him other natural supplements….some work, others don’t. But the end of the day, I hear and know you are tired. I so understand and am honored that you reached out. While writing, I thought of the Israelites and the Exodus. God had freed the Israelites only to allow the 40 year hike in circles. One part of my bible says “the decades spent on the far side of the desert were an important formative part of [Moses’] life. When they approached the Red Sea (no hope in sight from a human perspective), Moses (who has learned a few “formative” lessons) tells them to trust, not to fear (really? I can’t imagine); and then says “The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still” (Ex. 14:14). Sometimes in our trying to help our kids, we need to stop moving, to be still, and wait for the deliverance of the Lord. That doesn’t negate responsibility, it requires that we trust while being responsible. It’s the hardest thing to do but perhaps that’s where He has you. I’ve been there for quite some time; not always with a great attitude. But God gets us, my friend…HE will deliver. Let’s watch for his hand. Please stay connected; I’m here for you anytime. Colleen

  • Judy

    Colleen, I too have dealt with this very issue with my own disabled daughter.
    It has been over ten years now, but Satan loves to remind me of my failure in recognizing the signs.
    In the deep of night is when he likes to visit most. My prayers are not of forgiveness because I know my Savior doesn’t blame me, but of how I can forgive myself for not being able to stop what happened. Your words are impactful to me and I will save this to remind myself again . I often feel I have failed my daughter, but I know our Lord loves her even more than I and so I pray for Him to reveal His love to her.
    Thank you for helping those of us that hurt to move forward.

    • Judy,
      I am so, so, so sorry. How I wish I could just sit with you right now and repeat… ‘it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault,’!! We know that cognitively, emotionally there are days I still weep. I go to the Psalms, allow the grief to weather the pages of my Bible, and take it one breath at a time. Yes, nights are sometimes rough. Like you, I must proactively choose to know God isn’t done with our stories; His justice will prevail. Two years later, Jon experienced another issue that almost ended my faith. The first ordeal caused additional diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, greater sensory problems, regression, over 100 tics a minute, and horrible PTSD with flashbacks. The journey I have been on with the Lord is probably similar to yours…trust one day, doubt the next, and on many days it’s somewhere in between. Judy, this is a long walk of faith, I so understand and am so sorry. In it all, I believe the deeper our pain, the greater is God’s reach through us to comfort one another. I would like to know what helped you and continues to help you move forward with hope. For me, I remembered that God watched and allowed the death of His only son…my son hadn’t died and I never saw all he endured. God’s grief perhaps is even deeper than ours which is why His word is our greatest comfort. I promise to pray for you, your precious daughter, for healing and hope as we live in this temporary unjust world. One day, our Lord will make all things right, justice will be served, our children will be made new. Reminding ourselves of that provides amazing hope. May God use you in a mighty way, Judy, to touch lives who are hurting with such empathy and grace. May He be near you through those dark nights and bring light to your every day. Thank you for reaching out; I hope to connect again real soon. With all my heart, Colleen