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The Obedience of Sleep

Written by Chris Skinner on


I am a night owl by nature. If given the choice, I will always elect to stay up and watch a movie, or read, or snack. As I have grown into marriage and family, it sometimes feels like the only time I have truly to myself is after the kids are in bed and the “stuff” of the day is done. The downside to this habit is that if I’m not careful, I easily fall into a pattern of not getting enough sleep.

There are myriad examples of medical research that will explain why this is a bad thing. And I have felt the health effects of sleep deprivation more than once in my life. But what’s interesting is that sleep (or lack thereof) also has something to say about our trust in God, if the Bible is to be believed. One of my favorite instances of this is in Psalm 4. It paints a picture of a man who is lamenting unjust accusations from evil men:

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah (ESV)

We all have felt like we’ve been treated unjustly. We all have been misunderstood and misjudged. We all have felt there were circumstances thrust upon us that were not our fault or beyond our control. It undoubtedly adds hurt and stress to our lives. Many of us have experienced the sleepless nights that come from experiences like these. That is what the psalmist is dealing with in Psalm 4.

He concludes the psalm, however, like this:

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (ESV)

His response to his unjust situation isn’t to frantically strain to clear his name. It isn’t to fire off emails or send texts and tweets that “set the record straight” or return evil for evil. Instead, he gives us a beautiful picture of the obedience of sleep. In his words, to lie down and sleep is a statement that declares trust in God’s ability to take care of him. He can lie down and sleep because he believes that God can be trusted to wake him up in the morning to a planet that is still turning on its axis. Instead of seeking his own revenge, or spending hours plotting a “fix” for the current situation, he remembers that God is the one who puts joy in his heart.

Not every bout of insomnia can be blamed on our lack of trust. Sometimes, there are serious medical reasons for it. Other times, caffeine intake can be to blame. But I can’t help but wonder if many of our sleepless nights can be traced back to not following in the footsteps of this psalmist. When we try to take whatever unjust or scary life situation we face into our own hands, we will undoubtedly find that we are not up to the task. That lack of ability to solve our problems will cause stress, anxiety, anger, and more. And these things will keep us up at night.

But if we trust in the one who judges justly, and give our situation to God, we can then lie down and sleep. Why? Because we know that our problem is now in the hands of somebody who can fix it, and while we’re sleeping, he’s working. He cares for us, and he never sleeps.

Chris Skinner

Chris serves on the College Park Church Worship Arts Team as the Production Director. He is passionate about encouraging the church to gather and worship Christ. Chris enjoys spending time with his wife, kids, and Small Group.

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