It’s one of those nights. Tossing and turning. Pulling on the blanket. Throwing off the blanket. I’ve already prayed, writing in my prayer journal – actually a three-ringed, thrift store notebook. It’s a nighttime ritual that usually yields sweet sleep, but on this night? Halfway through, I’m still wide awake, avoiding the clock, knowing it’s showing a discouraging early hour with miles to go before sunrise.
So, I get up. That, indeed, is the first good thing I do that night. When we hit a wall, we can keep walking the same rut, running the same race, tossing on the same bed.
Instead, common sense comes calling. Or maybe it’s Bible sense. Or surely, it’s the Holy Spirit. Thus, at His kind leading, I wrap myself into a robe, tip-toe down the hall, plop down in the work chair at my desk. Then I turn on a lamp to listen to the comfort of God. That’s great Bible sense, indeed. As wise King Solomon wrote:
If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5 (NIV)
That’s a lot to think about in the middle of a sleepless night. But that’s exactly what I’m doing, grabbing a pencil and scribbling in another thrift store notebook, compiling a list of gripes I want God to handle.
Big gripes. Little gripes. My list is so long I divide it into categories, then sub-categories. I’m trying, indeed, to carry the whole weight of the world on my inadequate shoulders. No wonder I can’t sleep.
But wise King Solomon points me to the next step: stop dictating my laundry list of peeves and problems and open the treasure awaiting me. Yes, I open a Bible.
It’s sitting right there – a long-ago gift from a lovely friend, given when Bibles came bound as books, not on our smart phones. So, the pages make that nice crinkly sound when I open it. Taking my time, I land not in Proverbs but back in the trenches with the apostle Paul.
He’s scribbling his own list of gripes, complaining in a letter to his church at Corinth – yes, in that glitzy city of blingy riches, bustling harbors, artsy beauty, thriving businesses, and more than anything, moral rot and decay.
“I know I sound like a madman,” Paul says. Then he unloads on his Corinthian church folks, “I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea” (2 Corinthians 11:23-24, NLT).
Yes, Paul’s gripes sound humanly familiar. His complaints? His “many long journeys,” dangers “from rivers and from robbers” and “in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas.” Indeed, he’s facing long hours, “many sleepless nights,” hunger, cold, “without enough clothing to keep me warm” (2 Corinthians 11: 23-27, NIV).
Pity party? Compared to Paul’s, my gripe list pales. Then Paul remembers: “To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7, NIV).
Well, you know the rest of the story. Three different times Paul begs the Lord to take it away. Each time, the Lord answers the same way: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT).
Sitting as my desk, reading my friend’s Bible, I remember hearing that Scripture as a child – that God’s grace is sufficient, and His strength “made perfect” in my weakness. Indeed, no gripe is too big for His grace.
So, I stop complaining. I put down my pencil. Full stop. Then I turn off the light, walk down the hall back to my bed, lay down beside my husband, and fall sound asleep – falling into God’s arms, sinking into His grace.
Most of you already know how to do this, of course. But for the rest of us, when awakened by troubling trials or when starting a day feeling defeated or when overloaded with gripes, let’s accept we can’t fix those things by ourselves. Indeed, we are weak.
Yet if we hand our troubles and gripes over to Him, He’ll bless us with the strength of His grace. Then we can greet each day with what our God of grace deserves — total praise.
If we hand our troubles and gripes over to Him, He’ll bless us with the strength of His grace. -@PatriciaRaybon: Click To Tweet