Have you ever had one of those terrible nights when all of the problems of the days, weeks, or years came crashing down on you, and you felt trapped, pressed down in your bed by difficulty, unable to sleep because of the troubling thoughts that keep swirling around in your mind?
Blessed with a sleep disorder, I don’t have these often. Usually, when my head hits the pillow, fatigue takes over and I fall asleep in seconds. But sometimes, nights like this still happen. Recently, I actually woke up in the middle of the night with doubts and concerns that wouldn’t go away, so I ended up thinking, crying, and praying for 2 hours before going back to sleep.
I find that prayer is really the best option for these nights. It’s an activity that won’t, in and of itself, keep me awake if my body does go back to sleep; and at the same time, what better use can I make of that time? If I feel worried and distressed, I must go to Him: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
One night a while back was particularly difficult for some reason. I was doubting my vocation, my ministry, my friendships, my family life. Because of the way my mind works, I started really considering that these feelings of complete failure and unsuitableness were God’s leading to a new place. But my mind wavered about that, too, because I knew for a fact that He had called us to where we are and nothing had really changed (outside of my mind) to alter that calling.
I felt suffocated by these worries and fears. I wanted to pray, but even that was difficult. I was inconsolable. So I put on my headphones and started listening to a prayer. It was the prayer that forms the introduction to The Valley of Vision, a compilation of Puritan prayers that I have found very helpful. As I listened to this prayer, on endless loop, it finally helped me to go to sleep.
The content of this prayer is centered on the idea that it’s the difficulties of life that teach us, the times when we feel the lowest that God is showing us Himself. I was comforted that if this is the situation that He has prepared for me to be in, then it is a good one. And I need to die to myself in order to live for Him.
Here are a few quotations from this prayer, along with my own extended prayers. I hope that they can bring glory to God, who brings us through trials, and comfort to you if you have recently faced one of these dark nights.
“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the Valley of Vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights.”
Father, You have brought me to a difficult, low place. I do feel low. I feel as if I am merely a frustration and burden on everyone around me, that I am completely dependent on You and others, that I am unable to bear this burden alone. But You have brought me low so that I can look up and see You more clearly, more easily. It is a paradigm-shifting paradox that when we are low, when we can see our spiritual bankruptcy and understand our true, powerless state, that is when we can see Your grace, truth, and strength in our lives. Please forgive me for being upset by this situation. You are teaching me; You aren’t leaving me alone. This is all part of the Correspondence Course from Heaven. They are Your lessons, and the more difficult the lesson, the more I will learn about You.
“Hemmed in by mountains of sin, I behold Your glory.”
It is my own sin that makes this difficult, Father. This whole broken world is a difficult place, but even more than that, it is my sin that makes me proud, that makes me desire softness, luxury, ease, and admiration at every step. I want to focus on You, not myself. I want my whole life to work like a telescope for others to see You more clearly.
“Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up.”
God gives grace to the humble. We ought to humble ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt us. At the same time, we can also cast all our anxieties on him, because he cares for us (1Pe 5:6-7). In God’s system, this is the only way to get out of our desperate condition.
“That to be low is to be high.”
Human ambition and pride are so destructive that it is at the times when these completely fail us that, ironically, we are closer to knowing what true ambition and success are. Father, I want You to be my ambition. I want my ideas of success not to come from my own understanding or from the world around me, but instead to come from You. I want my pride to be stamped out and replaced in my heart with love for You and a desire to show everyone what is great about You.
“That the broken heart is the healed heart.”
It is only when our hearts are broken that we understand our need for Him; then we can go to Him and ask for His help and trust in His mercy. Then we will be healed. We will understand that this world is broken, twisted out of its natural shape, because we have broken His law. So it is right for our hearts to be broken. If He allowed us to be whole in such a state, it would not be a kindness; it would seal our fate because we would never realize that there is something better. Thank you, Lord, for how You break things so that they can be restored to what they ought to be. “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa 51:6-10).
Here is the rest of this prayer:
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
That to have nothing is to possess all,
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
That to give is to receive,
That the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the day time, stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells, the brighter Thy stars shine.
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
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