Answers to Your Questions: Nightmares—Where They Come from and How to Conquer Them
Q: I’ve been having bad dreams lately, and it seems the more I worry about having another one, the more likely I am to. How can I break this vicious cycle?
A: Our dreams are often directly influenced by our daytime thoughts, so if the last thing you think about before bed is the bad dream you had the night before, it’s not surprising that you have more of the same. One key to breaking the cycle is to not think or worry about it as you drift off to sleep, but of course that can be easier said than done. In combating bad dreams, it’s also important to understand where they come from.
The Bible tells us that we are all engaged in a spiritual war—a war of good versus evil that our spirits continue to be involved in even while our bodies sleep. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).
Nightmares are often fragmented memories from that spiritual warfare. The ugly or frightening pictures that we remember are a weapon that the enemies of our soul—the Devil and his minions—try to use against us. But we who have received Jesus as our Savior have power over the Devil and all of his devices, including nightmares. “He [Jesus] who is in you is greater than he [the Devil] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
We often wake from a nightmare remembering mainly the evil, but if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be sure that we were actually victorious in the spiritual battle. Our spiritual enemy doesn’t want us to remember the victory, only the battle. He tries to strike fear in our hearts, but we have nothing to fear. If we have Jesus, we’re on the winning side! If we will cry out to the Lord, either in our sleep or when we wake, He will deliver us every time!
The warfare is constant, but the enemy’s tactics change. He looks for any weak spot in our spiritual defenses, and attacks there. Sometimes we make ourselves vulnerable by failing to pray and commit everything to the Lord before going to sleep. Sometimes we carry the problems or worries of the day to bed with us, and these are magnified in our dreams. Sometimes the Devil and his imps try to trouble our sleep or keep us awake so we won’t get the physical rest we need. Sometimes he tries to get us to doubt the Lord’s power. Sometimes he tries to discourage us.
Whatever tactic he may try to use on you, there are two proactive measures you can take to create a force field of spiritual protection around you and thereby foil his plan:
First, before retiring, commit everything to the Lord. Ask Him to lift the burden of any unresolved problems or worries from the day, and to protect your spirit through the night. Pray specifically against bad dreams, and for good ones.
Second, take a few minutes to strengthen your connection with the Lord and get in a happy, victorious frame of mind by counting your blessings, praising Him for His goodness, reading some encouraging, faith-building thoughts from His Word, or listening to music that glorifies Him and lifts your spirit.
Here are a few specific promises from the Bible that you can claim for good dreams and sweet, restful sleep:
“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
“You shall not be afraid of the terror by night” (Psalm 91:5a).
“The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).
“My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:5-6).
“He gives His beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2b).
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:24).
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
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