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Go To Sleep: How (Late) Bedtimes Betray Us

It’s easy for you to get your 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night? You have no trouble with drift– no trouble shutting down Gmail or closing out your Facebook feed?

It’s a breeze to set aside your undone to-do list so you can hit the hay? Self-control at bedtime is not a problem?

Then don’t bother with this post.

Sleep Easy?

Because this one is for people like me, who burn the midnight oil more than they’d wish. People who woke up (late) one day to realize we’d transmogrified from lark to owl.

For us who don’t like to admit it, but we actually think our little worlds might crumble if we go to bed without everything done. Who might not like to admit it, but we actually think that our little worlds might crumble if we go to bed with our to-do list undone. This post is for those of us who think we’re holding the world together when we stay up way late.

Here are a couple false beliefs I buy sometimes (when I’m sleep deprived) and four quotes that help me ear down those lies.

Three False Beliefs

I am indispensable. Sure, I believe God is sovereign, but he needs all the help I can give him. If I don’t do the work, who will? Although Christ has promised to build his church, who’s doing the night shift?

I am indestructible. I am strong enough to cope without God’s gift of sufficient daily sleep. Do I refuse to accept my creaturely limitations and bodily needs and see myself more as a machine than a human being? (David Murray, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture)

(Sleepless) Consequences

[N]atural limits cannot be transgressed without consequences. You can borrow time, but you can’t steal it…If you stayed up all night Thursday, you’ll invariably crash on Friday and if not on Friday, you’ll sleep an extra five hours on Saturday. If you don’t catch up on sleep over the weekend, you’ll likely get sick the next week. And if you don’t get sick and you keep pushing yourself on empty, your productivity will slide. Or you’ll snap at your friend and cause a relational meltdown that takes weeks to mend. The time you thought you stole cannot be so easily filched. You cannot cheat sleep indefinitely. And the longer you try to borrow against sleep, the more your body (or God) will force you to pay for those hours- plus interest. (Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Sort Book About A (Really) Big Problem)

The Godliest Thing You Can Do

[I]f you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep- not pray all night, but sleep.  (D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus)

God is Sovereign (& We’re Sacks of Sand)

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4)…Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign. Man is not sovereign.Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps. (John Piper, A Brief Theology Of Sleep)

“Slept” is as Profound as “Wept”

Ultimately, sleep, like everything else, should lead us to the gospel and the Savior. It prompts us to think about death, that we shall all close our eyes as in sleep and wake up in another world (1 Thessalonians 4:14). It teaches about our Savior. That Jesus slept (Mark 4:38) is as profound as the fact that “Jesus wept.” It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that he needed to sleep. What humility! What love! Such an example! What a comfort. It illustrates salvation. What are we doing when we sleep? Nothing. That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of his salvation. “Come to me, all you who weary and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Sleep points to heaven. There remains a rest for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9).  (Shona Murray, ReFresh: Embracing A Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands)

Trust God. Go to Bed.

Resting in Christ is not just spiritual. When we take breaks and go to bed at a good hour, even with an unfinished list, we are resting in Christ. We acknowledge our creaturely limitations. I love how Shona Murray puts it, Contrary to what we may think, he is not disappointed in us for not finishing our list. Instead he is honored because we entrust what we cannot finish to him.

It’s how God made us. Fragile and finite, sacks of sand hardwired to sleep ⅓ of our lives away. Trusting souls who know the truth Psalm 4:8, In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. 

Going to sleep with the list undone is our way of saying, “I trust you God. I know you’ll do great without me. My work, my self are safe with you.”

I’ll lie down and sleep because my God never sleeps. 

So g’night. Get to bed.

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 127:4