The night was not made to be spent entirely in sleep. Why did Jesus pass so many nights amid the mountains, if not to instruct us by His example? It is during the night that all the plants respire, and it is then also that the soul of man is more penetrated with the dews falling from Heaven; and everything that has been scorched and burned during the day by the sun's fierce heat is refreshed and renewed during the night; and the tears we shed at night extinguish the fires of passion and quieten our guilty desires. Night heals the wounds of our soul and calms our griefs.
[John Chrysostom, Hom. in Psalm VI]
Talk about a radical concept. From infancy we have been conditioned to believe that we need 8 hours of sleep in order to function properly and to be emotionally and physically healthy. When we wake up in the middle of the night, we assume that something is wrong with us. Type "insomnia" into Google and you get 24 million sites. Americans spend millions of dollars each year on medications to help get to sleep and stay asleep all night. Almost everyone I talk to is on one of the familiar brands advertised on TV. Sleep clinics are big business.
This quote from John Chrysostom [347-407 AD] led me to rethink my views on sleep. I was always a bit uncomfortable reading passages in the gospel that described Jesus' nighttime journeys to the mountains or remote areas in order to pray. Surely, he didn't mean for us to follow his example. I mean, he was the Son of God - one would expect him to do that! The disciples didn't seem to accompany him in these wee hours of the morning. Perhaps this was just a Father and Son thing. But it still bothered me. There was something there that whispered, "If it was important to Him, why wouldn't it be important for you?" I can't think of any other place in the gospels where Christ said, "I'm doing this but don't think you have to."
We tend to think of nighttime as God changing the sign in the door from "Open" to "Closed" and ceasing from all activities. But God continues to work even during the night hours. Invisible things occur which have tremendous impact. The earth "breathes" and cleanses itself (in spite of our continually making it more and more difficult for that transformation to happen daily with our pollutants and destruction of forests and oceans). Some animals find food at night. Dew descends from the cooler air and blankets the ground with welcome nourishment and water to replenish that which was lost during the day. We are a part of the great Creation. Why wouldn't we be included in this marvelous, daily cycle of healing and renewal also? Yes, God restores us by giving our bodies rest and our muscles relief from use. But nighttime can also be an amazing time for spiritual awareness, insight and dialogue with our Father. Next time you wake up in the middle of the night, make sure it's not your heavenly Father requesting a midnight moment with you. You might find healing for your hurting soul, encouragement in the midst of your trial, or the cleansing of tears shed over sins or sorrows. There were some pretty amazing events that occurred in scripture during those early hours of the morning! You'll be amazed when you start thinking of them.