Babies are born with two intrinsic fears: fear of falling, and fear of loud noises. Yet, as babies develop into young children, it is normal for them to experience nyctophobia–or being afraid of the dark. For most children, this is just a phase. By the time children become teenagers, their fear of darkness is long gone. This was not the case for me. And I suspect there are a lot of young women out there who experience this, too.
When the lights went out in my bedroom as a little girl, I was instantly afraid. It didn’t matter that my sister and I shared a room. Turning on a nightlight didn’t help. Talking didn’t help. Every night I lay in bed gripped by fear until my mind finally relented and let me fall asleep. As an adult, I’ve gained more insights about what exactly I was afraid of, and how I overcame it. For most people, being afraid of the dark is less about the darkness, and more about what’s in the darkness that makes us afraid. Fairy tales and folk lore spin stories of vampires, werewolves, and witches who all use the cover of night to do their worst. Certainly burglars do their best burgling after dark. And it wasn’t until I went to a therapist as a teenager, that I was able to see the purpose and beauty of the nighttime hours.
Did you know that our bodies require sleep? Our bodies need the reparative hours we sleep each night. Your body uses the time you sleep to grow. Sleep deprivation results in decreased growth in adolescents. It’s also the time our bodies need to heal. There’s a reason your doctor tells you to go home and rest when you’re sick with the flu. Your body’s circadian rhythm is like an internal clock that signals to your body that it’s time to get sleepy once the sun goes down. God designed our bodies to need and use the nighttime for our benefit and good throughout our lives.
God took great care in creating beautiful beasts of the night. The owls, singing crickets, cats and kittens, deer, and croaking frogs, all lend a voice to the symphony of the night illuminated in the backdrop of fireflies in the summer months here in Arkansas. When I lay in bed some nights, the moon dips down, bending its luminous curve towards the earth, and moonlight spills into my bedroom window. My husband and I will lay awake naming the night things as they speak; the howling coyotes, the cows in the farmer’s field. On especially lucky nights, we’ll get storms that roll through. We wake the children, turn off all the lights, and gather together counting the seconds after bolts of lightening strike until we hear the thunder roar–telling us how many miles away the storm is from us. When the storm finally looms just over our home, squeals of delight would come from our children as the lightening and thunder seemed to come all at the same time. And the kids would rush into our bed and under the covers where they knew they’d be safe. Even now, our teenagers still love to watch thunderstorms with us, and it is common to be disappointed by faulty weather reports that fail to provide an exciting storm.
As I learned to love the night, I would often find myself awake in bed, conversing with my Heavenly Father, pouring out all my thoughts and concerns in prayer. It reminds me of our Savior as he left his sleeping friends, the apostles, to speak with His father in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:39 says, “And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
When storm clouds clear, they make way for us to view the beautiful starlight of the Milkyway. This summer, find the time to lay on freshly cut grass and look up at the night sky. There, we see stars, and even planets, and if we are especially lucky, a comet or falling star might blaze by. As I look out into the night, I remember in those quiet hours, He knows me. He knows the name of every star I see, and has provided the rich beauty of both the day and night for me to love.
How can you learn to make your nights more peaceful?