When You Need Strength for the Sleepless Nights: Encouragement for the Weary Mom
If you are a mama to little ones, then you know the struggle of sleepless nights. You know the dread of those middle-of-the-night wakeup calls, the frustration and anger that arises when you're summoned from your bed for what feels like the hundredth time. You know the fatigue from caring for a baby or chasing around a toddler on just a few hours of sleep. You know the anxiety that weighs on you when you look at the clock, do the math, and realize the sun will soon be rising and you will be back to the daily grind again.
I know all of these things quite well. I remember the season of being woken every two hours by a hungry, nursing baby and I remember the countless weeks of rocking a teething toddler back to sleep. I remember the nights of sobbing aloud desperate prayers to God, begging him to help my child get some rest.
Lately I've been facing difficult nights again as my nine-months-pregnant body has become larger and more uncomfortable and I've been experiencing that pregnancy insomnia many of us are familiar with and dread. With my husband now working night shifts, I'm also on nighttime baby duty alone. And although my daughter has been sleeping through the night for the past few months, something changed this past week. It could be teething or congestion or that eighteen month sleep regression I've been so often warned about. Whatever the reason, there were several nights in a row of being awakened numerous times in the night to the sound of my daughter calling for me from her crib. Whenever I laid back down in bed, found a somewhat comfortable position for my large, aching body, and finally drifted to sleep, I was yanked back to reality moments later once again.
By the third night of this, I thought I might lose my mind. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do more: shut down, cry, or scream.
And on this night at about three in the morning when I was woken up for the fifth or sixth time, I could literally feel my chest tightening from anxiety. I wondered if I should be prepared to call my husband in case I were to hyperventilate or have a panic attack and become unable to breathe. I wasn't completely exhausted or at my breaking point -- I had been through worst nights before, after all -- and yet just the thought of losing this much sleep for this many days in a row had such a powerful effect on me that I felt like I was physically suffocating.
Of course I made it through. I was able to put her back down to sleep with fairly little difficulty and I slept like a rock for the remainder of the night. And yet when I got out of bed that morning and thought back on all that had transpired the night before, I knew deep in my gut that something was wrong with the way I reacted. What got into me last night? Why did my body respond in the way it did? I cried out to God, "What does this mean?" And the words that came in response humbled me and have stuck with me since.
I am more convinced about my weakness than I am about the Lord's strength.
It doesn't matter how many rough nights I have survived or how well I have managed to get through each long day, a part of me is always expecting to collapse under the weight of it all instead of expecting the Lord to pick me up and be my strength.
I read an article five years ago about how our bodies take much longer to catch up on sleep than just the mere hours lost and I have thought back to that article at least once or twice a week since. Does this not sound a little insane? But the fact that this little nugget of knowledge still shakes me to this day reveals an underlying problem and explains so much.
It explains why I'm sometimes driven to madness when I look at the clock in the middle of the night, why I despair at the thought of laying awake and losing a couple hours of sleep. It's why I have nights of feeling overcome with anger towards my daughter, and moments when I just lose my temper and yell and scream. It's why I cry out to God, "WHY AREN'T YOU HELPING?" and feel like he's against me and my whole world is caving in. It's even partly why I fear having our second child and reliving those newborn days once again.
The problem is I have put this idea of "a good night's rest" up on a pedestal, convinced that I will fall apart without the perfect amount of sleep.
Instead of putting my faith and security in the Lord, I have put my faith and security in my physical rest. Instead of remembering the many times he has provided for me and strengthened me in my weariness, I often find myself believing that his power is no match for my body's limitations.
But the fact remains that he has always been the Provider and his strength and goodness -- for both you and me -- can be seen everywhere if we would only choose to lift our focus from our weary bodies and tired minds and set our hearts on his faithfulness instead.
His faithfulness can be found in the days when our batteries are recharged by a quick nap or when a friend steps in to be our cheerleader or watch the baby while we relax. The afternoons when our still, tired bodies become an invitation for them to climb up into our laps. The sweet moments when we find reasons, even in our weariness, to smile and laugh with our children. The times we realize our presence is enough for them. The lessons we've learned on how to slow down and let things go. The peace that comes from knowing there's only so much time and energy we can spend. The season of maturing and discipline that looks like being awake in the wee hours of the night, allowing the Lord's love to grow deeper in our hearts as we rock our crying babies back to sleep once again.
We don't have to ignore our weariness or beat our exhaustion in order to see God at work in our lives. Relying on his strength doesn't mean being that "supermom," the one who does it all and with a perfect smile on her face. No, that mom is just a woman running herself into the ground in an attempt to push through her body's limitations. She's relying on her own strength instead.
Relying on the Lord's strength simply means trusting that he is strong enough, faithful enough, and present enough to carry you. It means receiving his grace that he longs to pour out over you. It means surrendering to his lordship over our minds, hearts, and bodies through both the well-rested days and sleepless nights. It means facing the day with hope instead of despair and declaring "I can do all things through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).
I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend another night laying awake in despair and anxiety, expecting my world to fall apart. I want to spend each night and every single day in worship and prayer, thanking him for the times he's come through for me and declaring with faith that he'll do it once again.
Ten years from now, I don't want to look back on these years of caring for little ones and only be able to see how many sleepless nights I had. I want to remember how the Lord carried me and how he gave me a strength I never knew I could have.
I want to remember how he was able to turn even nights of sleeplessness into days of fruitfulness because my trust and dependence rested in him.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).