Susan Bailey describes how she uses music to turn insomnia into an opportunity for prayer.
There was a time when I was plagued with insomnia. Much of the time it was brought on by anxiety, usually over our finances. But sometimes it was just my mind getting stuck on a word or a meaningless thought that I could not move beyond. The dead of night has a way of magnifying fears and worries. If I woke up at 4 a.m. stressing out over money woes, I knew once I got up for the day that the problem would shrink and the anxiety would dissipate. But being engulfed by such feelings while surrounded in darkness can be quite painful and frightening.
I would reach out to God, praying the Rosary with hopes of being lulled back asleep because of its soothing rhythm. Instead I would finish it and feel even more anxious. I would beg God to let me sense His presence; the answer instead was silence — there was no consolation.
These nighttime experiences continued for a long time before I finally got the point — it is not necessary for God to answer. His very presence is the answer and it is up to me to have faith. I had to stop relying upon my emotions and instead turn to my intellect. My knowledge of God, small as it is, tells me that He is nearest to me during times of trouble.
Emotions are fleeting and shallow, totally undependable and deceptive. Just because I don't feel God's consolation doesn't mean that He is not aware. God is fully cognizant of the suffering I am going through. He is fully immersed in my life and never leaves me. Even if I cannot feel or sense Him, He is there. And the day that I realized that truth, I no longer had difficulty with nighttime anxiety. If I can't sleep, I remind myself that God is there. That knowledge is the consolation.
Now when I have a hard time sleeping, I listen to spiritual songs or Gregorian chant and lose myself in God's presence through the music. Often I will think about the monks at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer saying their prayers as a community at 3 a.m. in the chapel. The thought of their voices lifting into the darkness changes the night from a foreboding and dreaded place to a welcoming one.
During this pandemic, it has seemed like nighttime inside of me, where I have been unable to grasp any sense of what lies ahead. Many times I could only live moment-to-moment, dealing with whatever pain I had whether it be physical or emotional. It has been during this time that I've been so grateful that God revealed to me the truth that during my darkest nights, He is there.
This precious gift of faith made it possible for me to trust in his plan even if I had no clue where He was taking me or how we would get there. Now as things become clearer and the darkness lifts, I have the consolation of knowing He is leading me.
Copyright 2020 Susan Bailey
Image: Aleksey Kuprikov (2020), Pexels
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.