How To Fall To Sleep When You’re Anxious
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” — Acts 12:6-11
So this is an interesting story. What I find especially interesting is Peter is in an unbelievably deep sleep. This guy is out. And he is so deep in sleep that when the angel shows up, and has to kick him in the side to get him to wake up. And then when he does wake up, he is still so incognizant he thinks he is dreaming.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I will let you know that there is just about no way I would be able to go to sleep in a situation like this. Peter is doing something I would not be able to do. This man is about to face horrific capital punishment. One of his closest compadres, James, was just beheaded. And at the moment, Peter is shackled between two men, which by the way, is not exactly the way I would want to spend my last night on earth. There is no way he will last even one meeting with the vengeance of King Agrippa, who, by the way, is elated that Jewish religious leaders like what he is doing with Christians. And yet, at this moment, Peter is dead asleep.
And my question is, how in the living world is Peter able to fall asleep in this situation?
Well, I actually think there is a possible answer to this question. You see, during Jesus’s earthly ministry, Peter received a couple of very specific predictions from Jesus. The most famous was a prediction about Peter's denial of knowing Jesus. And while Peter denied that prediction, it came to pass only moments later and exactly as Jesus predicted. In the same way, Jesus made another prediction to Peter. It was about how Peter would one day die. Jesus said this is John 21
Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” — John 21:18-19
Now that’s pretty specific!
So let me interject a thought here as a guy who struggles with anxiety and sleep. In the moments that I am most anxious, I have found it best to preach to myself the promises of God. I do this by first finding a story in the Bible that relates to my situation. Then second, I seek out the promise in that story that relates to my present situation. And third, I commit that promise to memory and preach it to myself throughout the day.
I actually wonder if this is what Peter did? If Peter repeated Jesus’s promised prediction to himself over and over until he finally fell to sleep in the belief of the promise over the despair of the situation? I actually wonder if he fell to sleep to this thought:
“This ain't the end! Jesus said it wouldn't be like this. He promised I would be old and pushed around in a wheelchair by people I don't like to places I don't want to go!"
And then I wonder if he just smiled and fell to sleep recalling this promise.
Today, if your enemy is pressing in, I want you to do the same. Live in the victory of a biblical promise. Not a promise you made up in your head, but a real biblical promise. One embedded in the narrative of the Bible. Find a story that relates to yours. There is one. Read it. Find the promise in that event and to that person in that time. And lean on that promise by recalling it all day long. Preach it to yourself. Preach it until you believe it. And when competing thoughts arise that induce anxiety, beat it down with that promise. And maybe tonight, you will sleep a little better. Unless, of course, an angel comes and kicks you in the side.
ASK THIS: What’s the promise you need to lean on?
DO THIS: Preach it to yourself.
PRAY THIS: God, help me to lean on this promise — your promise!
PLAY THIS: Standing on the Promises — Selah.
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