“At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.” Jeremiah 31.26From David King
I struggle with sleep. I didn’t when I was younger, but now I can find myself lying awake for, at times, 2-3 hours. Often it is a result of worry. There was even a time when I would be unable to get back to sleep, because I was worried about not getting enough sleep!
I mention this because I was encouraged to discover that Jeremiah also had problems sleeping – as the verse above shows. A good night’s sleep was a sufficiently noteworthy thing that Jeremiah would record in Scripture when it happened. Having said this, looking at Jeremiah’s life and calling, it is not surprising that his sleep was so often interrupted. What is surprising, is that he slept well at all and not least on this occasion. This is for two reasons:
The first reason is that Jeremiah is in the midst of the terminal descent of God’s people into judgment. It is a doomed nosedive brought about by their repeated sin. The forces of Babylon are encircling, and the people of God are refusing to listen to Jeremiah’s warning. The future is bleak. And yet, Jeremiah has a pleasant sleep. Why? It is because he has heard that the Lord has promised salvation to His people. Not salvation from judgment – their sin must be paid for – but salvation out of the other side of judgment. Jeremiah is so confident of the faithfulness of God to His promises that he knows that he can trust that God will do what He has said. One of the practical outworkings of faith is that it brings the peace that gives us a pleasant night’s sleep. That is why rehearsing in our minds the faithfulness of God and the glories of His promises to us – in other words exercising our faith – is so valuable. In fact, using those times of sleeplessness is a tremendous time to do it!
The second reason is more surprising still. Jeremiah has a pleasant night’s sleep when he hears the Lord’s promise of salvation for His people, even when Jeremiah knows that he will not be alive when those promises are fulfilled. Jeremiah elsewhere prophesies that the salvation will only come after 70 years in exile. Jeremiah knows that, by then, he will be long dead. Jeremiah’s love for God’s people is so great that he experiences the most profound comfort that God’s people will be restored, even though he will not share in that restoration. This greatly challenged me.
How can I grow such a love for God’s people, that their suffering hurts me deeply (even if I do not share in that suffering) and that their blessing comforts me (even if I do not share in that blessing)?
“Lord, take me out of myself and my obsession with my own situation that I might love your people more and more deeply, such that I rejoice when your people are blessed and mourn when they are in distress. In other words, may I feel what you feel towards your people. Amen”