This is a Q&A for 1517 Publishing’s newest release, “Graciously Keep Me This Night: Devotions from Scriptures Darkest Hours” by Steve Kruschel.
1. What initially prompted you to write this book?
I’ve been plagued by sleepless nights since I was young. The more I counseled people, the more I realized I wasn’t alone in my struggles. Everybody experiences sleepless nights. As I read through God’s Word in my personal devotions, I started to take note of the moments when God’s people suffered long nights. From Adam to Abraham, Jacob to Moses, Ezekiel to Zechariah, and then most poignantly in Jesus himself, long nights have apprehended believers. But when those nights grew long and the strife became severe, God’s love shone all the brighter. I wanted the devotions of this book to be a source of strength for everyone who has waited all night to see the sun come up again. God shares so many personal promises and powerful words of comfort for you, and we see that vividly on display in the lives of those believers who have gone before us. Most of all we see that love in Jesus, who took the darkness of our sins on himself, called us out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
2. You begin your introduction with the story of your own bone-chilling experience with Sleep Paralysis. In the years since this incident, what has personally given you comfort or peace when faced with ‘long nights’ as you describe them?
I will admit that the thought of waking up paralyzed still frightens me from time to time. But I also admit that my experiences pale in comparison to what the readers of this book have encountered. You know the types of fears that keep you up at night: fears about war and family strife, worries about illness and relationships, or the dread of guilt and loneliness. What God taught me through that frightening experience of sleep paralysis is that sometimes he has to place us in positions of weakness in order to show that he controls all things for our good. Jesus did the same for his disciples. He allowed the storms to rise up so that his disciples could see that they were helpless without him. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned and shipwrecked and struggled with a thorn in his side so that he could realize that when he is weak, it is the Lord who makes him strong. God has a way of using even the long nights of our lives to remind us that he is in charge. What a blessing that is!
3. You end your introduction with Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer, saying: “ The writer of this prayer was a man who experienced his own fair share of long nights. He wrote it with your nightmares in mind.” Can you tell us a little bit about Luther’s own struggle with sleepless nights?
I think Martin Luther knew as well as anyone how long the night can feel. As a father, I doubt Luther got any sleep the night before his beloved daughter, Magdalena, died of sickness at the age of thirteen. I doubt he got much sleep while he eagerly waited to hear how the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, reacted to the German princes standing up for the Lutheran faith as it was detailed in the Augsburg Confession. But I think one night might have been longer than any other for Luther — the night before he would stand in front of his government and church at the Diet of Worms and boldly confess his faith. That night in Luther’s life has always drawn me in. What temptations did Satan throw at him? What struggles did he encounter? Ultimately, the same Lord who strengthened Luther strengthens us during our long nights of decision.
4. As you wrote this book, did you find that the Scriptures talked directly about the night, and even being awake in the night? In what ways does it also indirectly address this topic?
I was surprised to find just how often God describes his people waiting out the night. If anything, the pre-modern world felt the darkness more than we can imagine. If I feel afraid during the night, I can turn the lights on. Abraham didn’t have that opportunity in the Old Testament. But the Lord also lovingly used the nighttime sky to illustrate one of his greatest promises to Abraham, that the countless stars represented his countless descendants. But Scripture also uses darkness as an illustration to describe who we were by nature. We were born in darkness. Our sins doomed us to eternal darknesses. You don’t have to experience long nights to feel the guilt of sin. For some, the day feels far more discouraging than the night. But whether we struggle with sin in the day or the night, I wanted these devotions to focus on Jesus, our true, eternal light. He is the light that shines in our hearts. He outshines our every struggle with sinful guilt and shame.
5. Is there any advice or thoughts you want to share with potential readers?
I would like my potential readers to know that I wrote this book with them in mind. I know that there have been times when fear has kept you up at night. Let these devotions chase away the darkness of your worries with the light of God’s Word. I know guilt arrests you when you are all alone. I want you to remember with every devotion the ultimate truth that Jesus took your every sin away. I know that you can’t sleep when anger grips you. I hope these meditations on Scripture help you to remember Jesus’ love for you. It remains a love that forgave you even though you didn’t deserve it. That’s the love of Christ that envelopes you in a blanket of peace. And when Jesus’ love peacefully puts you to sleep, wake up ready to hand out Jesus’ forgiveness to those who have wronged you, just as he did for you.