Learning to Trust God in the Middle of the Night

By Caroline Saunders

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At one time in my life, the middle of the night wasn’t anything to dread.

But I’m a new mom, and I’ve discovered that there’s a loneliness that belongs to the middle of the night. At first my baby needed me over and over again, her cries startling against the stillness, shaking me, the only one who can give her what she needs, the one who must navigate the stormy waters alone. Too alone.

She’s been sleeping through the night for a while, but now I’m the one who needs to learn to sleep. Too many thoughts, and tonight they sit heavy upon my chest and keep me awake. Today was like any other day. She’s a good baby, I am told. And I know it. But good babies are still babies, and today, like many other days, she had a spell of crying that I couldn’t diagnose. Sometimes the crying is deep and desperate, and its effect on me is like a punch in the gut. “What’s wrong, baby girl?” She doesn’t have the words to tell me, and my mother’s intuition fails, but eventually we make it through. We always do, of course, but it makes me uneasy. I hope she’s okay. I hope I’m doing okay.

Because what if she’s not? Or what if I’m not? I cannot even formulate these questions without my chest tightening and my hands shaking. I want to throw up. On nights like this I have to get out of bed and shake the words out of my mind and onto a blank page where they can’t haunt me.

This being a mom thing is the scariest thing I have ever done. It has revealed a dark piece of information I was not prepared to deal with: I do not know how to trust God.

My resume says that I should know how to do this. I grew up in church, I’m married to a pastor, I work at a Christian school, I teach a small group. I know the right answers. “We can trust God — He knows what He’s doing.” I hear my own voice saying it, millions of times, but it’s only now that I realize I said it flippantly. Arrogantly. Naively. Not realizing that trust is a thing easier said than done. I hate myself for saying it that way.

Dear God, teach me to trust.

He brings these verses to mind, for likely the hundredth time since she was born:

“I prayed for this child [oh how I prayed!], and the Lord has granted what I asked of him [oh how he did!!!]. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:27-28

And so I pray the verses back to Him, for likely the hundredth time since she was born:

“I give her to you, Lord. For her whole life, she will be yours.”

The problem with my prayer is that I don’t really mean it. Not for long anyway. I keep taking her back. In the middle of the night, I realize my grip is desperate, shaking, and fearful. I am holding on to her with all I have.

But my hands are not strong enough. My grip is too unsteady. I am worried I will drop her. I am worried I cannot give her what she needs. I am worried my arms will give out under the immense weight of this thing we call motherhood.

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In the middle of the night, I realize it: I cannot hold her. I am not supposed to. She needs to be held by someone with much stronger hands — someone with unfailing strength. With infinite wisdom. With the kindest voice, the most tender love.

What tender love my God must have that He thought to create her in the first place! How did He think of those rosebud lips and rubberbanded wrists? How did He know to make her turn towards me when she heard my voice for the first time? How did He know to make her face light up every time her dad walks in the room? His fingerprints are all over her. He didn’t need to give her that giggle, but He did. How did He know to do that?

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He must love me very much. He must be very good.

He brings to mind another verse, the one He set aside in my heart a long time ago. The one I always knew I’d have framed in a nursery someday, now written in gold and fixed to a polka dotted wall:

“He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

Then I see — He holds her, but He holds me, too.

Mothers, you and your babies, me and my baby — we are gently led; we are carried close.

It means the questions lose their power. It means we can be still and finally sleep.

I know this: Motherhood is heavy. Motherhood is hard.

But I know this too: That baby smells fresh of heaven, and I know He is good when I look at her closely enough.

I say it again, but the flippancy is gone: We can trust God — He knows what He’s doing.

Remember it mothers; remember it, Caroline — in the middle of the night when the baby is crying and you don’t know what to do, in the middle of the night when your fears take you captive — He holds you, and He knows what He’s doing.

The middle of the night belongs to Him, and we can trust him in the midst of it.

Caroline Saunders

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17 comments

  1. Jamie says:

    Seriously Caroline… your words came straight from my brain/heart. Those horrible thoughts that scare me right before bed…and then jumping awake in the morning to make sure he is okay. Its so hard to love them so completely, yet let go of them so completely, too. Our babies can’t be our everything…that spot is reserved for our Savior, BUT IT IS SOOO HARD. Thanks for sharing your heart and reassuring me that I’m not the only neurotic mother trying to remember to give my son (and future daughter) to the Lord and stop taking them back! And thanks for sharing Isaiah 40:11 – I didn’t know that one, but I will be committing it to memory for sure! So reassuring!

  2. Kendal says:

    Caroline! You are so gifted at writing! May The Lord continue to be glorified through you. You were able to capture the very essence of this new motherhood adventure. It is like getting married all over again and discovering weaknesses one never knew existed!

    • Caroline Saunders says:

      Kendal, thank you so much for reading! You are SO right… motherhood and marriage are total game changers. They both chip away at us, but thank goodness that God is faithful to use the sometimes painful process, and in this case the babies, to make us more like him. (Although at this rate, I will need 97 more children.)

  3. Gina Mayfield says:

    Thank you for this! As a new mommy I am going through all the same emotions, say the same things to the Lord yet jump up to make sure she is breathing and watching the monitor to see if I see movement. I am glad I am not the only one who has these fears. This is something I needed to read and truths that I needed to be reminded!

    • Caroline Saunders says:

      Gina, you are certainly not the only one, and comments like this are a relief to me! God created us to love these babies so fiercely, and then we let it all get out of hand and forget that he’s the one that gave them to us in the first place. I will probably end up getting Isaiah 40:11 tattooed on my forehead at some point because I have to remind myself over and over of his promise to lead me!

  4. Lili says:

    This is amazing, beautiful, and true. My daughter’s a winter baby, so the sun rose late every morning. I remember crying at 6 AM many mornings because of the literal darkness and how long I’d seen it. Thank you for sharing, and you are definitely not alone.

  5. Jennifer says:

    This hits me in the gut where I have already been letting myself fret and I have NEVER been a worrier! My baby is 18 and just moved off to college and it has been a struggle from missing her to mainly just pray she always holds onto her love of The Lord and Truth and that she won’t fall in love with someone who isn’t Gods best! So when I feel the yuck in my stomach I am praying and reminding myself that she is in The PERFECT
    HANDS OF THE ONE WHO CREATED HER and He has given her this opportunity and He is caring/carrying her. Love the lamb verse; thanks for the wonderful reminder!
    BLESSINGS my sisters!❤️

  6. Summer says:

    This is such good truth. I found myself reciting a lot of biblical truth engrained in myself but not feeling/believing it. My first few months of motherhood were a great exploit of my heart and the self-suffiency that had rooted itself deeply. What I find deeply amazing is how God’s gifts seem to always be twofold: much more than just a sweet, healthy baby – He ties in the gift of dependency. Wish we could have chatted some more in our childbirth class!!!

  7. Katie says:

    I know this was written several months ago but I can relate so well to this. I really wish I could have read it when I had my baby almost 2 years ago. The night time is the loneliest time. While the husband sleeps and you feel like everyone else on the planet is snoozing and you are all alone. That no else’s baby is doing this and the constant question of why is this so hard? Even now sometimes I ask myself how can I get through another day. Being a full-time mom, wife and employee but we do and I can only believe it’s because of the strength God gives us Moms! XOXO

    • Caroline Saunders says:

      I don’t know why the night is so hard, but I’m so grateful that in both your life and mind, God has used those difficult times to teach us of his strength in the midst of our weakness. Thank you for reading!!

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