by Lori Stanley Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld
“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 127:2 ESV
Nights come when we just can’t sleep, right? Like awake at three am playing spider solitaire and watching documentaries on the History channel not sleeping. It makes a person think. Usually about sleep.
Ever look up “sleep” in the Bible? There are a bunch of verses where “sleep” has nothing to do with the act of sleeping but rather directions with whom we should NOT sleep. Not the topic of this post. Then there are verses where sleep has to do with death, as in “we shall not all sleep”. Also not the topic of this post.
There are, however, actual verses about people sleeping – where people of the Bible lie down at night, close their eyes and rest. That’s what this post is about. Actual sleep. Because, if we lie awake and think about it, sleep was quite an act of faith in Biblical times.
Lying down to sleep could result in death and disaster.
While Samson slept, Delilah tipped off his enemies about his whole hair secret (He might have done well to pay attention to those verses about who we should NOT sleep with). While King Saul slept, his enemy crept close enough to kill him. A military leader named Sisera was lured to sleep by Jael, and she drove a tent peg through his head (again, should have checked the passages on acceptable bed partners!) And a young man in the New Testament fell asleep during a sermon – falling out of a window and needing to be revived by Paul (I think I’ve heard that sermon). Anyway, sleeping was risky business.
Men of faith, however, not only managed to sleep, but God was active in their lives as they slept.
When Adam awoke from deep sleep, God had fashioned a woman for him! It was while Abraham slept that God introduced Himself and gave him the orders to relocate to a prime piece of real estate by the sea. When Jacob slept, He dreamed of a stairway to heaven – thus blessing future generations (and Led Zeppelin). When Joseph, Mary’s betrothed, slept, God let Him know His girl had been true and gave Him the green light to trust her crazy story.
Even Jesus slept. As a dangerous storm raged around the boat carrying the men with whom He’d entrusted the gospel, He napped in the bow. Of course, He woke up, spoke up and ended the weather event before disaster – one of the coolest miracles recorded! But, my point is, that He was able to sleep in the midst of turmoil, high seas, and seasoned fisherman screaming like little girls!
You and I don’t have to worry about tent pegs or barbarian invasions while we sleep, but with all the pressures of our lives, sleep can feel like an act of indulgence.
We stay up late and rise early, trying to keep our lives afloat in very stormy seas, and we get irritated with God because He never seems to get uptight enough about the impending doom on our horizon. More times than not, Jesus says (I’m paraphrasing), Have faith and catch some Z’s. You don’t keep the world spinning, I do. That’s why I invented sleep, so you’d have a nightly reminder that there is a time to rest and let Me work.
Ultimately, sleep is an act of faith even now. Others should be saying about us: “Who are all those well-rested people? How do Christians have time to rest?”
Want to exercise your faith today? Go take a nap.
About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.
Join the conversation: Do you ever struggle with sleep?