A Theology of Sleep (i need it)


Lately, I haven’t been able to sleep. It’s not that if I lay in my bed, I can’t fall asleep, mind you. It’s the getting to bed part that keeps getting to me. I find myself staying up way too late (usually writing up these blog posts) until I can barely function, and then falling into my bed–unconscious even before my head hits the pillow. I then struggle to wake up and don’t end up having time and energy to start my day in the way I would hope.

This has got me thinking about sleep and why I can’t seem to get myself to it. Sleep is natural. I remember listening to a great RadioLab episode on sleep (if you don’t know what this show is, then you’re really missing out). It talked about how sleep is one of the most puzzling and inexplicable of behaviors that creatures do. Scientists have no idea why we do it. You would think that natural selection would work to get rid of sleep (as predators could kill you), but alas, our beds have been stronger than the “invisible hand” of evolution.

Sleep is an incredibly spiritual act as well. God has invaded many a dream in the Bible and in my own life. He has visited many people as they are in the process of falling asleep. The apostle Paul uses sleep as an image of rest for the Christian. He seems to refresh our souls and renew his grace as we sleep.

I’ve been hearing God’s voice so clearly speaking Psalm 127:2 over me: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

So why the heck am I not sleeping? I honestly think the root may be more spiritual than anything else. Psalm 121:4 says: “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Humans sleep, God does not, and the world still turns. I don’t like to be reminded that God is what I am not.

If you think about it, sleep is one of the most humbling things we ever do. No matter who you are in history- no matter how powerful, wise, or strong you are – you must and will bend your knee and surrender your consciousness to a power greater than your own with no promise of waking up, else you will die.

But in the end, part of me thinks my self-imposed insomnia comes not from not wanting the humility of sleep, but rather from my fear of hearing God. Not only does part of my soul believe that God will not speak grace over me if I were to deal with him, but part of me doesn’t want to receive it, lest I lose all my standing of righteousness I’ve earned and can wave in front of his face.

Sleep makes us slow down and actually listen to God. Psalm 63:5-6: “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” In this case, sleep (or trying to get there) leads the writer to meditate upon God and experience a sweet satisfaction in his longing for Him (see vv. 1-5).

And so I see in myself this tendency to stay up as late as possible until I am tired enough to fall asleep immediately. And my concern is that I’m missing a very real place that God wants to meet me.

So please pray for me that I would find the grace to sleep. And may we not take this same path of folly and avoid the quiet place God has prepared for us to meet him free of anxieties; to bathe in the love and rest of our loving Father with a clear conscience dressed in the warm blanket of Christ’s righteousness; knowing He is who He says He is and that we are who He says we are – both of which can be our greatest joy and ultimate satisfaction.

Sweet dreams.

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4 thoughts on “A Theology of Sleep (i need it)

  1. Pingback: Enough of Not Enough Sleep! Setting My Spiritual Priorities Straight « The Aniweda Dream

  2. Pingback: Pet Memorial Gifts » Blog Archive » K&H Thermo Pet Mat

  3. Pingback: Christianity as Sin Management? | the long way home

  4. Pingback: Compline: Now I Lay me Down to Sleep (for grown-ups) | the long way home

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