I don’t know why my mind runs rampant at 2 a.m. It’s a terrifying mystery how quickly I become caught in what feels like a literal roller coaster in my mind. It descends higher and higher and my stomach churns with the expectation of a BIG drop into the abyss of my reckless thoughts. I pray that it stops. It becomes an all-out battle as memories surface of the things I did in my past or the things that were done to me. Mental illness wears many faces – I am one of those faces. Christians are not exempt from the thorns of suffering. In fact, the scripture says, “many are the afflictions of the righteous” and yet, we are not left to battle alone, we have a Comforter who is always near to us and promises to deliver us “out of them all” (Psalm 34:19, ESV).
I think to myself as I try to take my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), that I am grateful to have a God who has forgiven me and strengthens me so that I am able to extend forgiveness to others as well. I cry out, “God, help me!” I am reminded that the past cannot be undone. It cannot be erased. Yet, we can move forward with hope because God loves us so much.
The devil will beat us up with our histories, but God is faithful to restore us now. There have been mornings when I have awakened from restless nights, feeling like a punching bag. If I’m being honest, that still happens from time to time. Although intellectually we have studied the scriptures and know that we are victorious in Christ, our flesh is weak. You can listen to a million podcasts about running a marathon. But without actually lacing up your running shoes and training, you will likely not complete a race and, worse, you will likely be injured attempting it.
Just like training for a race requires discipline, developing Godly preparation in our spiritual lives is necessary for battle. When the 2 a.m. attack begins, it’s important that we have a plan that we have rehearsed so many times pre-battle that it’s instinctive. I’m still not 100 percent prepared, but I live a life of prayer even as I faulter. Talking to God has become so natural to me that I find myself chattering in His holy ears without even realizing it. This isn’t to say that I am amazing or that my security in Christ rests on my own efforts. Truly, my salvation rests solely in the sufficiency of Christ.
The point that I am struggling to make is that as we draw our attention away from the temporary distractions of this world and focus instead on the eternal deity of Jesus Christ, we indeed do find a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, ESV). I devote time to God because I know that my life and my sanity depend on being able to turn to Him when I am attacked with 2 a.m. thoughts.
Furthermore, the attacks are not necessarily getting better or even less frequent. What is happening is that even as I am weak, I am becoming stronger through Christ. Not only does God make it possible to survive the assaults on my mind, but He gives me reasons to celebrate persecutions knowing that “…when you meet trials of various kinds … you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3, ESV).
As God’s children, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth wherein such mental attacks simply do not exist (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV). But for now, we are being refined and that process is tough. Assaults on our minds will never be pleasant but learning a dependency on God is a beautiful thing. As we continue to grow in our relationship and trust in Him, we find comfort in the eternal promise of His grace.