Nightmares are defined as dreams that produce a strong negative emotional response, such as fear or horror. Although I rarely have nightmares, last night I was awakened in a state of extreme distress, and unable to go back to sleep for some time. In my dream, one of my grandchildren had given birth to a baby boy, and when I leaned down to kiss him on the cheek, he attacked me with razor-sharp teeth and with great strength. It took all I had to get away from him. My wife and I knew that he was the antichrist, and I struggled with the dilemma of whether or not I should kill him; would that be God's will? Even in the nightmare, I knew that it was not. I knew we would raise him to adulthood with much fear and trepidation.
There is no doubt that nightmares can be extremely disturbing, but is there any spiritual significance to nightmares? Dreams and visions are fairly commonplace in the Bible, and God often used the dream state to communicate with His prophets and others. God spoke to Abimelech in Genesis 20, warning him not to touch Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Other dreams include Jacob’s ladder (Gen. 28), Joseph’s dream that his brothers would serve him (Gen. 37), as well as his dream about Pharaoh (Gen. 40-41). The Lord or His angel appeared to others in the Bible, including Gideon (Jud. 7), Solomon (1 Kg. 3), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2), Mary (Matt. 1), Joseph (Matt. 2), and Pilate’s wife (Matt. 27). None of these dreams, however, are called nightmares, so we cannot definitely say that the Lord does, or does not, speak to people through them.
Some people think Satan or demons are infiltrating their minds during nightmares, but the Bible gives us no reason to believe they can read our minds. Clearly that would take a measure of omniscience, which only God has. However, Satan and his demons have been observing and tempting human beings for thousands of years. In addition, they can hear us when we talk, so surely they have learned a few things about us. Even without the ability to know our thoughts, they can probably make a well-educated guess as to what we are thinking, and then attempt to use it to their advantage.
Whether or not our nightmares are the result of demonic forces, they are cause for us to totally rely upon God's Word to deal with them. The Bible is the test of what is true and what is a lie from the Evil One. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus, He responded using the Scriptures to silence him (Matt. 4:1-11).
Satan may be powerful, but we are told to submit ourselves unto God first, then resist the devil, and he will flee from us (Jam. 4:7). So in a nightmare, or while awake, trust in the Lord, and you will find in Him, perfect peace (Isa. 26:3)!