I was woken up on Friday night by an alarm. It was 2am, and the ringing was loud. I went through the options: burglar alarm? Nope. Dishwasher finishing? I never set it. Phone left off the hook? I did not use it. Half asleep, I covered my head with my duvet and blankets, but the noise was no quieter, for it was within my own head. I keep a tablet (of the electronic kind) by my bed, and typed in ‘ringing in ears’. Tinnitus, came the reply, and some foreboding details were added:

The common cause is due to the damage in the inner ear. The other causes include:

Damaged blood vessels in the brain near or around the ear

Age related hearing loss

High blood pressure

Overactive thyroid

Tumours in head and neck

Clogged arteries around middle or inner ear


None of it made for pleasant reading and I wished I had not bothered. Then again, I could not sleep because of the awful ringing sound in my right ear, so I might as well have looked. I wondered if it would ever stop, and I suggested to my God that this is something I could do without. By 3.30 it was gone, and I snatched some sleep before dawn.

To be awoken by an alarm inside my head seemed bizarre to say the least. If it had a volume control and was able to be set at a desired time, it might have proved useful, but it had neither. Over it, I had no control. I hope it never returns, but over this, too, I cannot rule. I can only pray that God has mercy on this old tent before I receive that which is better.

Sometimes we think we sin because we are tempted by demons, or, better still, Satan himself. Sadly, we fallen humans are as capable of manufacturing evil on our own, and right skilful we are, too. If Satan and his cronies took a week’s holiday from the earth, the levels of sin would barely dip, for our corrupted hearts would still spew their filth regardless. My head disturbed my sleep with a phantom sound, and my own heart pollutes me with its pretended righteousness and relentless, vile production belt.

Lord, what a riddle is my soul!

Alive when wounded, dead when whole!

Fondly I flee from pain, yet ease

Cannot content, nor pleasure please.


Thou hid’st thy face, my sins abound;

World, flesh, and Satan all surround;

Fain would I find my God, but fear

The means, perhaps, may prove severe.


[If thou the least displeasure show,

And bring my vileness to my view,

Timorous and weak, I shrink and say,

“Lord, keep thy chastening hand away.”


If reconciled I see thy face,

Thy matchless mercy, boundless grace,

O’ercome with bliss, I cry, “Remove

That killing sight, I die with love.”]


My dear Redeemer, purge this dross;

Teach me to hug and love the cross;

Teach me thy chastening to sustain,

Discern the love, and bear the pain.


Nor spare to make me clearly see

The sorrows thou hast felt for me;

If death must follow, I comply;

Let me be sick with love, and die.


J. Hart, Gadsby’s Hymns, No 304