The Grace Of Sleep
July 27, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
I have asked the men of Oak Hills to read a book with me this summer, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray. I’m drawn to this book because I want to see the grace of God lived out more and more in my life, in my thinking, in my feeling, in my marriage, in my family, in my relationships, and in my work. I hope you are able to pick up a copy and read with me. It will be the launching pad for discussion at our Men’s Breakfast on August 26. In the meantime, I want to use these Touchpoint articles to share some of my reflections as I work through Murray’s book. This is part three.
Have you ever read a chapter in a book about sleep (much less than an entire book on sleep)? I don't recall ever reading much about sleep. But sleep is where David Murray starts in guiding his readers to recover and/or develop a grace-paced life. He began his book by helping us diagnose grace deficiencies in our lives, but the majority of his book focuses on ways to cultivate more grace in our daily activities. Sleep is step one.
Murray kicks it off by stating, "Few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I'll show you your theology, because we all preach a sermon in and by our sleep" (p. 54). One example Murray highlights is taking pride in getting too little sleep each night. Such pride demonstrates theological beliefs such as God is not sufficient to take care of my life, God doesn't know what's best for me and my body, my spiritual and physical well-being are not linked, and other things/tasks are more important to me than God and his ways.
Murray then outlines some of the sobering and well-documented consequences of not getting sufficient sleep. There are physical, intellectual, emotional, societal, financial, moral, and spiritual consequences (all negative) from lack of sleep. He also provides some helpful guidelines to cultivate the grace of sleep in our lives.
In the midst of his discussion, Murray highlights a few verses from the Psalms that speak about sleep. Let's read these verses and see what God would teach us about sleep.
Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 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.
Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
From these verses we learn:
- Sleep is a gift from God.Sleep is not a curse or a weakness. It's a gift. God gives this gift. To deny it or avoid it is to deny and avoid the gift-giver.
- Sleep is an acknowledgement of the sovereignty and sufficiency of God.As great and gifted people we are, success in life ultimately doesn't depend on us. God is the one who "builds the house" and "watches over the city." With no amount of anxiety or sleepless toil can we add a "single hour" to our lives. Our sleep patterns will either reveal our acceptance of this reality, or our non-acceptance.
- Sleep is a means for God to sustain us.We love the psalms that celebrate God as a sustainable rock or fortress. We think of the active safety in the storms of life. But sleep? Not so much an active safety. We have to admit to ourselves that we like to contribute to our safety. God is our rock, but we sure need to cling and stand on the rock to be safe. Sleep is totally passive, on our part.Yet God uses it to sustain us. This goes back to number 2. Is God sovereign and sufficient to sustain us while we sleep?
- Sleep is an expression of trust in God.This is the capstone of a biblical understanding of sleep and grace. If we say and celebrate that God's grace is sufficient for us, then whether we truly believe will be revealed in how we sleep. Murray writes, "Yes, a grace-paced life begins with stopping and accepting the grace of sleep" (p. 54).
When it comes to our spiritual lives and accepting God's grace by faith, we often want to focus on "spiritual" disciplines. Murray helps us to see that physical disciplines, like sleep, are just as important. As Bible scholar D.A. Carson says, "Sometimes the godliness thing you can do in the universe is get a good night's sleep - not pray all night, but sleep" (quoted by Murray, p. 61).