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  • Writer's pictureJay Lowder

Your Burning Bed!

Updated: Apr 22

Part 1 - Don't Kindle that Fire!

  Francine Hughes burned her husband to death on their bed after enduring years of horrific domestic abuse. Her arrest and trial in 1977 led to the writing of a book, The Burning Bed, in 1980, later adapted into a movie in 1984. Based upon the popularity of the movie and the issues of abuse that it raised, a new term entered the English vocabulary, "Burning Bed Syndrome.”1 What an image for a bed! The place we associate with rest becomes a place of conflict, abuse, and death! Is your bed a place of righteous rest (Psalm 3:5; 4:8)? Is it not also sometimes a place of inflamed passions, smothering anger, faithless worrying, and vain imagination?

    Genuine children of God, though not perfect yet (Philippians 3:13), have a genuine desire to grow in righteousness; therefore, they grieve when they recognize they have spoken sinful words or taken sinful actions. When we confront our sins or when true friends lovingly confront us, we are usually humble enough to identify with Isaiah's cry, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips."  But such repentance tends to result from obvious, overt sins. Why do we not examine the heart more, over which we are told to maintain "vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23)? Just as everyone will give an account for their every word (Matthew 12:36-37), so we will give an account for all that we think. Furthermore, since what we do and say flows from heart motives (Matthew 15:19-20), even if we think that our sinful nighttime thoughts, worries, and emotional warring do not harm anyone, they will soon enough. Regardless of what type of pondering may consume you in the night hours, turning your thoughts toward God in holy meditation, prayer, and praise will provide a peaceful solution.  If you cannot shut your thoughts down and go to sleep, you must turn them upward. Instead of counting sheep, we count on the Shepherd!

Burning Lust!

   What sinful thought patterns bother you when you lie down or as you wake up? They might be ideas that you barely notice during the day but that you need to address at bedtime. First, the Bible warns most frequently against coveting or its cousin lust. You feel tired from a long day, perhaps stressed, and your mind begins “going to and fro” (Job 1:7, NKJV), latching onto things or people you desire or loathing them. It can seem oh so harmless, but neither coveting nor lust requires acting upon those desires to be sinful (Exodus 20:17; Matthew 5:27-28). King David was in dire spiritual condition (2 Samuel 11:2) before Bathsheba was brought before him (verse 4). He should have stayed in bed in the first place (verse 2) or at least turned an evening stroll into another praise session like Psalm 8. Resist such thoughts at all costs (Matthew 5:29-30)! A quick way to do that is to humble yourself before the Lord (James 4:7, 10), pleading for him to extinguish your burning desires.

Once God extinguishes the flame, stopping the immediate danger, ask yourself if you piled up kindling for that fire. Many fires in homes are investigated, as determining the cause is important. Investigate the scene of the fire that endangered you. Were you watching television too long, or what was too risqué, sensual, worldly, violent, or just stupid? Should the last hours of your sensory input be worldly images, or would a good book or the Good Book be a better choice? Earlier in your day, were your conversations with co-workers and friends holy or sensual and worldly? And that nightcap? You did not get drunk, but your choice to “take the edge off” might have rubbed the edge right off your spiritual alertness.  It is wiser to skip it than to loosen the mind from self-control.

Burning Anger!

What about the burning of brooding anger as you lay on your bed? Where did that come from? Was the source not the momentary irritations with people in your day? Did you fail to “cover” and “bear” their minor transgressions under grace (Proverbs 19:11; 14:29, 1 Corinthians 13:7). Maybe their actions or words were serious enough that you needed to confront them. But you did neither, so it is no surprise that you have “anger indigestion” when you recline! You did not lay that anger to rest at the foot of the cross, wisely refusing to "let the sun go down on your anger' (Ephesians 4:26).  

In the middle of the workday or school day, you did have quick moments to whisper a quick prayer to bring your heart and mind back to what is honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Then, when you commuted home or arrived at home, you did have time to pray (preferably aloud) to the Lord about it. Instead of bottling up frustrations or venting to another, you could have talked to your Father about it!

But instead, that anger built up throughout a day, a week, or months, a root of bitterness and unforgiveness. Those thoughts, like smoldering embers, ignite the fire of anger when you lay down. Just like many forest fires are caused by campfires not fully extinguished, unattended, unwatched anger will flame up at night.  So, many nights, you lay in your burning bed thinking backward and replaying painful conversations. And you think forward, imagining the angry letter, email, or text you think you should send or the delicious, vindictive words you should speak in that next conversation. 

Setting your bed on fire physically would cause less spiritual harm than continuing to brood night after night.  Respond to that anger by meditating on Jesus and his gracious forgiveness of you. He paid the greatest price, and if in the night you praise him for that and pray for his strength, the drenching water of forgiveness will drown your anger. In addition to remembering your forgiveness, Jesus commanded and modeled taking the supernatural step of choosing to pray for those who have hurt us (Matthew 5:44). The Spirit of Jesus within you waits to help you pray for your foes.


The Fire Extinguisher of a Burning Passion for God!

Whether lust or anger turns us ablaze, William Bridge wrote that we must take note of the source: "God knows, and your own souls know, how you have lain musing in the way of sin; how sometimes you have lain devising mischief upon your beds; how often you have chewed the devil's cud; what swarms of unclean thoughts, of proud thoughts, of unbelieving thoughts, have possessed your hearts.  Oh, friends, shall we lie musing upon our bed in the way of sin, and shall we not think and muse and meditate on God and the things of God?"2 The replacement for burning sinful thoughts turns to soothing, holy, passionate thoughts of God, drawn from his word recalled by memory or those you read to yourself at the moment. In the next post, we will examine two other forms of spiritual "Burning Bed Syndrome" and examine more the fire extinguisher (godly meditation) that so powerfully defeats them.


Here is a helpful, related article:

1William Grimes, "Francine Hughes Wilson, 69, Domestic Violence Victim Who Took Action, Dies," New York Times, 31 Mar. 2017, Domestic abuse, like all forms of illegal abuse, is serious and sinful. Seek help from authorities and law enforcement institutionally, even as you seek to forgive individually.

2William Bridge, Christ and the Covenant: The Work and Way of Meditation, Early English Books Online, page 461, eebo2a77360.0001.001/227?vid=171186&node=A77360.0001.001:3&view=text.


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