Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches. It is one thing...
I’ve always been a good sleeper. While some people spend their nights tossing and turning, I do not. Or at least I didn’t—until a year ago.
Shortly after my third child was born I began struggling with insomnia. I would go to bed exhausted, only to stare at the clock (or a book) for hours. I tried everything. Essential oils. Going to bed earlier. Blue light-eliminating glasses. Chamomile tea. Even sleep aids.
Nothing worked for long.
As the night inched closer to bedtime, anxiety would rise within me:
What if I can’t fall asleep? What if I’m up all night again? What is wrong with me?
Eventually sleep became less elusive, and I can now say that I sleep decently most nights. I can live with that. In my battle with insomnia, I’ve learned a great deal about God, his care for us, and the reason we so desperately need sleep.
Sleep Is a Need
As image-bearers of God, we were created for rest. God rested on the seventh day, so we rest (Genesis 2:2-3). But while we bear God’s image, we are not God. God rested as a sign of completion. He was done creating his perfect world. It was very good. We rest because are incomplete. We are finite. We need replenishment.
Occasionally, studies come out showing us how much sleep we need, and just how little of it we are getting. There are apps that track our sleep, and sleep aids that promise to give us the sleep we want so badly. Something within us is daily telling us that we need sleep to survive.
Even if insomnia is not your problem, we all must come to terms with our need for sleep. You may try to live without sleep for a time, but the limitations of your body will eventually remind you that sleep is a need.
Sleep Is a Victim
During the bouts of insomnia that I faced last year, one of the hardest things for me was hearing about how much we need sleep, and knowing that I was trying everything in order to get it. I wasn’t trying to live on limited sleep; I knew I needed it, but I just couldn’t get it.
Maybe you are the opposite. You know you need it, but you don’t want to sleep. Either way, our battles with sleep remind us all is not right.
Like everything in this broken world, sleep is a victim of sin. When the curse fell upon Adam, Eve, and all creation, it left no stone unturned (Genesis 3). Sleep is a need, but it’s also broken. This means that for any number of reasons a person might sense his or her need for sleep—but simply be unable to get it. This means that sleep is restless. It’s too short. It’s interrupted. It’s elusive.
When you feel the pull toward your warm bed, yet fail to get comfortable enough to actually fall asleep, remember that sleep, while good and a need, is utterly broken by sin. We might not always get what we need and want in this life, and that’s a hard thing to accept sometimes.
But thankfully, that’s not the end of our story.
Sleep Is a Gift
God is a merciful God. Sleep might be broken, but it’s not impossible.
True to his character, God doesn’t show us a need without making a way to meet that need. Psalm 127:2 tells us that he gives us sleep as a gift. In talking about the vanity of burning the candle at both ends, the psalmist reminds us that sleep is a gift from God—a form of trust in the One who is always working, even while we sleep (Psalm 121:4).
But what about the one who can’t sleep? Is the sleepless one forgotten by God? Not at all. Sleep, like all earthly metaphors, is propelling us toward the One who is our true rest (Hebrews 4:1-13). This life, in all its brokenness and sin, might cause sleeplessness and make us weary, but we have a better rest coming. You might be sleepless in this life, but in the life to come, rest is waiting for you.
Sleep Is a Reminder
This doesn’t mean we forego sleep now as we wait for the rest to come. But it does mean that we acknowledge that even our greatest longings for sleep might not be met this side of heaven. We may face great trials before we get to that final day, even the trial of insomnia. What we need more than anything is to live within the limitations God gives us, whether it is insomnia or admitting our need to stop and rest.
God gives sleep to his people as a gift and a reminder that he is God and we are not. He has no needs; we have many. His purposes are not derailed by our sleeplessness, or the hours we lose soundly sleeping.
Sleep is a need—we know this to be true. Sleep is a victim to sin—we feel this every day. But sleep is a gift, one that we must thank God for with every hour of sleep we get.