Two men have served as important guides to me through this trial. Two very different men. One was a first century radical evangelist. The other is a 21st century psychological “expert”.
I first read the quote attributed to Dr. Phil on my friend Lori’s blog and it one of the most annoying things I have ever heard. It is this:
You don’t have to want to do it. You just have to do it.
This quote has all sorts of truly horrible applications like, “You don’t have to want to say no to the brownie. You just have to do it.” or “You don’t have to want to get up early and exercise. You just have to do it.”
As annoying as this phrase is though, it’s true and it works. Ways I have applied it lately:
- I don’t have to want to get out of bed. I just have to do it.
- I don’t have to want to put a smile on my face. I just have to do it.
- I don’t have to want to keep hoping. I just have to do it.
- I don’t have to want to forgive. I just have to do it.
- I don’t have to want to keep trying. I just have to do it.
And you know what? When you “just do it”, the “want to” nearly always follows. Feeling follows action.
One thing I found though that I can’t “just do” though, is sleep. I endured weeks and weeks of tortured insomnia not because I was not exhausted - I was (and am). But no matter how tired I was, as soon as my head hit the pillow my head would fill with terrifying thoughts and cruel voices.
You are unlovable. You are a failure. Your kids are going to be ruined. You’ll lose your house. People are talking about you. You will never be happy again… .
On and on it went. I’m crying typing these words remembering it. Then, after I’d fall asleep I’d wake up over and over again from the nightmares.
It. Was. Awful.
Until I learned to apply these words from Paul:
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. - Phillipians 4:6-7
As tired as I’ve been as I lie down at night, I find that if I can concentrate enough to apply this that I’m asleep within minutes and the nightmares are greatly reduced.
Here’s how it works: I tell God, “Okay. Here is my list of worries.” And then I run through them. Sometimes the list has several worries, sometimes it’s just one big, hairy worry. When I have finished the list I ask God to take them from me and work on them. Then, before I can yank them back again, I start listing the things I am thankful for right now.
The list of things I am thankful for?
Well it’s a hundred times longer than my list of worries. It includes everything from the obvious (my kids, my health, the roof over my head, the food in my cupboards) to the small details (blueberries on my cereal, purring cats, hot showers). I have yet to get to the end of things I am thankful for before I fall asleep. And when I wake up at 2:00 a.m. with my heart pounding? I just force myself to start being thankful again.
It works. Astonishingly well actually and I consider a good night’s sleep during this time to be “… God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”
In the interest of full disclosure though, I freely admit that before I get in bed I take a couple of melatonin and two Benadryl. And if the stress induced nausea is too bad, a Dramamine as well. Go ahead and judge, but this finely tuned cocktail is effective, safe and legal.
So two men who have nothing in common aside from four letter names that start with P have been guiding me through this and I add both of them to the list of things I am thankful for.