I recently read that about a third of adults in the US have problems falling or staying asleep that aren’t related to a persistent sleep disorder. According to Professor Emily Martin at New York University “The condition of sleep is profoundly contradictory. It is a precious good … but it is a good like no other, because to obtain it one must seemingly give up the imperative to have it.”
King Solomon wrote in Psalm 127 – “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.” Burning the candle at both ends is clearly not just a 21st century phenomenon! The demands of busy lives, combined with the addictive nature of TV and computer media mean that we rarely have time to slow down and relax. We can easily become trapped in a cycle of early mornings and late nights. When this is combined with worrying about our families, our work, even our church, sleep can seem elusive even though we may feel that we are at the point of utter exhaustion.
Solomon however seems to regard sleep as a blessing that God’s people are able to enjoy simply because they are loved by God. Why? There is a clue in the previous verse – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” The builder needs to work hard and the watchman needs to stay alert, but both carry out their responsibilities trusting in God’s greater provision for them. Sleep is ultimately a demonstration of faith that God can keep the world turning on its axis while we are out of the loop for a few hours. Is this the key to truly refreshing sleep – to consciously bring God into all our waking activity? If we learn to involve God in the day to day detail of our lives, perhaps we will find it easier to ‘leave him in charge’ when we nod off at night.
This blog post featured in the October 2012 edition of Lifelines