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My experience is that some nightmares can have a spiritual reason and a spiritual answer. I am not saying all do, and my twin daughters did experience night terrors for a period when they are young. But the Bible says that we are mind, body and spirit. When we are dreaming, our mind is processing hurts, anger, injustice, griefs, persecutions, etc. That we may not be completely dealing with in our conscious relationship with the Lord. I had years of nightmares after being born again and going to weekly Christian counseling. We are not instantly sanctified when we are justified. The Bible says: Psalm 16:7 I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my heart (mind) instructs me in the night. Proverbs 17:22 A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. I was disturbed for years after I got born again at age 45 by having these frequent nightmares involving people who had knowingly sinned against me, lied to me and betrayed me. I thought that I had forgiven them, but my mind was telling me through these dreams that I had not. The primary sanctification verses are Romans 12:1-2-- the renewing of our mind. Jesus wants to grow us to be totally dying to self and becoming more and more like Him. I kept seeking Him to find out what was the spiritual reason (since by being born again I had become a spiritual being) to find out the answer. Finally, I went to a deliverance ministry and found out that I still had unforgiveness in my heart that I thought had been forgiven. God the Father was gracious to point this out to me, give me forgiveness and deliver me from these nightmares. I haven't had a single nightmare in 2 years since I got that unforgiveness out of my heart. Now I may still dream about these people, but they are happy dreams. So I would say examine yourself (your heart and mind to see if there is any unforgiveness). Also the Greatest Commandment includes loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. This is growing in love for the Lord to address every area of our being. Other ideas I use are if I am unsettled before I go to bed, I actually sing myself to sleep like a mother does to her children. I usually sing "Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, mold me, make me, heal me, use me". We have the Holy Spirit as believers, but we need to be filled by Him daily, to use Him when we are under spiritual attack in warfare and when we are needing His comfort. He is the Comforter. Jesus is also the Great Physician who can heal our minds of these disturbing dreams. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].John 16:7 AMP So I am agreeing with Michael about going to prayer, but I am specifically focusing on calling on the name of Jesus to have the Holy Spirit take control of my mind and dreams so that I am submitting to Him. If it is spiritual attack (which if you are sharing the gospel a lot you will face) that also causes the attackers to flee. In our relationship with the Father it is always good to ask God to speak to us to tell us how to solve any problem. He knows everything about us, and He wants to speak to us. Keep seeking the answer from Him. Also James 4: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw close to God and He will draw close to you. One more thing, my daughter was recovering from jaw surgery, and we slept to harp music. Revelation 14:2-3 is one of the places the harp music is soothing while other noises of thunder are scary. I also know people who set up having the Bible read aloud to them while they are sleeping for protection from God's Word and also allowing, while not conscious, for God to continue to write it on their hearts and minds. (Hebrews 10:16) Blessings!
Michael, Mark, and Terry have provided great answers through Scripture and experience. I'd like to add Psalm 4:8 to read before you go to bed, 'In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.' Another great Bible passage, Psalm 91:5-6, 'You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.' We have our salvation and protection in Jesus and He said this to comfort us, John 14:27, ' Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.' I am writing here for those who might dream as I sometimes do. Many of my nightmares are frustrating. I have a goal in the dream but am never able to complete the task before me to reach that goal. Either I'm running out of gas as I try to get to a place of great importance, or someone is preventing me from finishing what I began with a wonderful outcome in mind. Frustration more than anything else is the theme of my nightmares. I'm sure a mental health 'professional' would have a great time looking into that. Too bad for them since I have the best confidant of all in Jesus. I've had nightmares of being killed in many ways, of being able to fly (which was fun and exciting at first) and not being able to slow down or come back to Earth, of being shot and killed and of falling to my death from a great height. If you can imagine it, I probably dreamed something like it. I learned the ability to become aware I was dreaming, that it wasn't real, and that I could wake from it. That edification came years ago so nightmares may trouble me as they're happening but I don't dwell on the 'message' in them after I wake. You can learn to do that also if you stop participating in the nightmare for a few seconds and think about whether the circumstances could really happen if you were awake since most nightmares are absurd. I see the theme of frustration in my nightmares as though I'm striving toward the goal as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:14, ' I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.' No matter the difficulties I experience in dreaming, I wake and walk in faith that Jesus will fulfill His promise to me, and for all of us who believe, that through His love and overflowing grace, we will attain our goal of being in Him and with Him in the Heavenly mansions He has prepared for us, resurrected in perfection with Him, 1 Corinthians 15:49-55. I have many good dreams too so, its not as if I have to deal with the effect nightmares have on me constantly and have to spend a lot of time trying to 'understand' them. In fact, my good dreams outweigh the nightmares by far. Some of them are encouraging, happy, and often funny. I cherish the dreams I have of my parents most of all, especially since they have been with the Lord for a long time now. Find peace beyond understanding and joy in the Lord, Romans 15:13, 'Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.' As Michael wrote above, dreaming is our brain's way of clearing out clutter and resetting itself for a new day.
Psalm 121:6-8 comes to mind in considering this question. The Lord will preserve his people from all evil, he will preserve our going out and our coming in (sleeping and waking). The moon will not strike you, it says - perhaps answering the fears that people had that the moon somehow had a power over them at night. Psalm 34:4-7 tells us that those who seek the Lord are delivered from all their fears. The angel of the Lord is with them and delivers them. It is interesting that John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, suffered from terrifying dreams as a child and, before he was converted, lived in fear of being killed in some strange way. As a bell-ringer in the church he attended, he was afraid that the bells would fall on him from the tower above. Later, as a born-again Christian he was able to use some of these experiences to good effect in his writings. The Bell Tower became the place where Beelzebub shot arrows at him as he sought to enter the Wicket Gate; Giant Despair and the Slough of Despond were also figures of terror - relieved through Help in the latter case, and remembering the Promises of God in the former. As a poet Bunyan wrote the famous Pilgrim Hymn. He wrote that Hobgoblin nor Foul Fiend could daunt his spirit, because he knows that at the end he shall life inherit. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and our eternal home must be a help to all who experience fears - either real or imaginary. On a practical note, I understand that during sleep the body 'washes' the cells in our brain. Drinking plain water before sleeping may enhance this process. But reading scripture or a devotional book as well as spoken prayer will also do the soul a power of good.
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