God's Gift Of Sleep

Because I am preparing to leave for Brazil -- and need this message again -- I am reposting this piece about sleep. Rest well.


We are a sleep-starved society and it is killing us. Consider what happens when you don't get enough sleep:

  • "A recent study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that one out of every six (16.5%) deadly traffic accidents, and one out of eight (12.5%) crashes requiring hospitalization of car drivers or passengers is due to drowsy driving."
  • People who don't get enough sleep are more likely to face these seven health risks: Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, headaches, depression, lack of attention, and ... death. Look at it this way: Short sleep, early mortality!
  • Sleep loss dumbs you down. This is especially important for teens who need 9 hours of sleep per night.
  • Lack of sleep kills sex drive (now I've got your attention!).

To every constant yawner, insomniac, or busy guy/gal who has labored to get the sleep you need, I feel your pain! As one who has struggled -- for years -- with getting sufficient sleep, I want to share with you what God is teaching me about rest. It comes from Psalm 127.

1 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.

2 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 127:1-2

Reflecting on this passage, I see why God wants to give me (and you) a good night's sleep:

  1. Sleep acknowledges God's sovereignty over me.
  2. "Unless the Lord watches over the city"
  3. What keeps me safe at night is not a Beretta under my pillow, or the burglar alarm, or the deadbolts, or the dog, or the gate, or the guard. In fact, what keeps me safe is not a "what" but a "Who" -- God. Psalm 4:8 tells me, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety." I can lay my head on the pillow and say, "Thank you Lord. Because you are in control, I can rest!"
  4. Sleep is a safeguard against vanity -- the idolization of "Me."
  5. "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest."
  6. God is saying that burning the candle at both ends is vanity. When I do that, when I become a workaholic, I am setting up an idol and that idol is me. Reading Psalm 127, I can hear the Spirit of God whisper, "Tommy, do you really think that you are THAT important? Does the world hinge on what you do?" Ouch! In fact, it is Jesus who upholds the world by his powerful word (Colossians 1:15-17).
  7. Sleep is a nightly expression of God's love for me.
  8. "For he gives to his beloved sleep."
  9. Every time I lay my head on my pillow at night it should be my gentle reminder that God loves me. He has provided my sleep as a practical expression of his love.
  10. Sleep is one of God's means to restore, sustain, and empower me.
  11. God uses the sleep he gives me to restore me--physically, mentally, and emotionally. We see this in the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19), and by watching Jesus asleep in the back of the boat (Mark 4). Click here for more on Jesus and rest.
  12. Sleep is a nightly reminder of the gospel, God's great work for me.
  13. I can summarize the gospel in one word: "Done." On the cross, Jesus has DONE for me what I could not DO for myself. Peter said, "For Christ died for sin once for all" (1 Peter 3:18). My salvation is secure when I put my trust in Jesus who died the death that was mine, who endured the wrath of God so that God could pardon me. Done!

Every night affords me the opportunity to rest in that finished work of Jesus. Ultimately, my identity is not in completing all that work hanging over my head tomorrow. My identity is in Jesus who died for me. That's good news for all of us who live with a constant barrage of "do" (do more studying, do more work, do more stuff). Yes, the work must be done, but my identity and my power to do it comes from the work of Christ done for me. As I rest my head on the pillow, I rest in Christ's finished work.

God wants all of us to "Press Pause" every night. Here are three words that can help us keep this in perspective:

Rhythyms: Sleep is our daily gift from God. It is our nightly eight-hour vacation from the cares and worries of life. When the Scripture says, "And there was evening and there was morning" God is marking out a rhythym of life. Sleep is part of that rhythym. Enjoy it!

Seasons: When we examine the Scriptures, we realize that there will be seasons when we won't get all the sleep we need. When Israel was rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem they were probably not getting a cozy night's sleep each evening. Paul said, "I have ... often gone without sleep" (2 Corinthians 11:27). Jesus spent the entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12). These are seasons of intensity that break up the normal rhythm of rest God gives us. 

Tension: Sleep is good. Too much sleep is bad. The sluggard always cries out for "a little more sleep, a little more slumber" (Proverbs 6:10). "As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed" (Proverbs 26:14). We need to enjoy sleep, but when we begin to crave sleep, that's when laziness is setting in -- watch out!

Tonight, put the alarm clock to bed. Get a good night's sleep. Enjoy God's gift of rest.



[1] National Sleep Foundation White Paper, at www.sleepfoundation.org. Accessed August 31, 2013.

[2] Schupska, Stephanie. "Not Enough Sleep, 7 Serious Health Risks" at www.webmd.com. Accessed August 31, 2013.

[3-4] Peri, Camille. "10 Things To Hate About Sleep Loss" at www.webmd.com. Accessed August 31, 2013.