This is an excerpt from the forthcoming intro of “Graciously Keep Me This Night” written by Steve Kruschel (1517 Publishing, 2022).
I’ve been told that to die in your dreams is to perish in real life. But what does it mean when death wakes up with you? I still remember the night death woke up with me. It hung in my room and I couldn’t move to stop it. I couldn’t run to escape it.
My own paralyzed body imprisoned me.
Sleep paralysis is a scientific term for this ancient, nightmarish problem. If you suffer from it, you know just how horrifying it can be. The effects sound like the stuff of science fiction—but I assure you it remains all too real. Sleep paralysis catches you between your dream world and the real world. It wakes up your mind before your body can move. That is when the real-life nightmares arrive.
Some who struggle with sleep paralysis swear they have seen dark figures enter their room. Others felt the hands of demons slowly wrap around their ankles, pulling them down through their bed. And some have even experienced a severe pushing down on their chest, feeling as though they are going to asphyxiate in their sleep.
I know how they feel. I also suffer from sleep paralysis. The experience is more terrifying than the scariest horror film, as though some insidious force hit pause and pulled me into the movie. I thought I was going to die. I was in high school at the time, sleeping in the black recesses of the basement. I had woken up in the middle of the night, feeling the darkest of presences—as though the devil himself were standing over my bed.
I didn’t move. I couldn’t move. With my head on the pillow, the covers partially over my head I just wanted to go back into the blissful ignorance of sleep all over again. But I couldn’t. My own sleeping arms and legs imprisoned my mind. I could still think. I was still awake. But try as I may, I could not think my way out of the frightening situation.
That’s when my bed started to move—not the whole bed, just the corner by my feet. The mattress pushed down as though someone was sitting on the end. My mind raced. Had the devil himself just arrived? That’s what it felt like. Had I unknowingly done something to invite him into my world? What could I possibly do now? I was powerless.
On and on the night went. My heart was racing. Hours seemed to pass as this evil presence sat on the edge of my bed.
That’s when I started to pray. I couldn’t speak the words. I still couldn’t move at all. I pleaded with the Lord in my mind. The thoughts all blurred together the way they do when fear floods the soul.
And God answered my prayers. My longest night—a harrowing experience I’ll never forget—finally ended. The sun came up. My bed became still. I could move again. I just never wanted to sleep again. I wanted to hold insomnia like a shield against whatever might appear with the following night.
In the years since that long evening, I have been told that I experienced sleep paralysis. Countless others have encountered similar situations: the inability to move, feeling an evil presence entering the room, an overwhelming fright from deep within themselves. The devil may not have been in my room that night—he could have been, I’m still not sure—but that experience still frightens me to the point where he might as well have been there.
That was my longest night. What caused yours?
Maybe my nighttime recollections sound all too familiar to you. If so, my heart goes out to you. I wouldn’t wish that night on my worst enemy. But maybe the entire story sounds foreign. I understand that, too. Other people’s long nights can sound strange to me also. That’s where God’s Word steps in, bringing me into the harsh realities of other people’s long nights to witness the suffering...and to hear his timeless comfort.
But something caused your longest night. What was it?
Have you kept watch over the bed of your dying child, unwilling to fall asleep? “Powerless” doesn’t begin to describe just how weak and ineffective you feel. Minute after minute you pray to God that you could take her place in an exchange that would enable her to grow up and live a full life. And really, you won’t be able to live much after she’s gone anyway.
Maybe your long night turned you inward. You were betrayed by your closest friend, or shunned by a family that no longer wants anything to do with you. The black hours of depression finally drag you to the question that you dare not vocalize: Should I just end my life? Would anyone even care if I was gone?
Spiritual turmoil can stop a peaceful night in its tracks too. The devil delights in sliding doubts into our lonely minds in the evening. Temptations take cover under darkness.
Maybe you have another struggle that casts insomnia on you— something far worse than what I’ve listed. Whatever it is, I ask that you please read on. This book is not in your hands so that we can simply commiserate with each other’s difficulties. It is meant to pierce your sin-darkened night with the light of God’s Word. These devotions promise to show you just how strong and eternal and loving your Light is. These words rest in front of you to show you Jesus.