rest your head

Places at St Helen’s where I have taken a nap: behind the organ, under a table in an office, on a row of neatly lined up chairs in St Peter’s vestry, and a new secret location that I won’t tell you about as it’s a good one and I don’t want you to find it.

Sleep is a great conundrum: To some it feels like a waste of time; we try to skimp on it so we can work more; we avoid it. It eludes others; we long for it. We need naps in the day (or wish we could take one). And some people love sleep and can ‘literally sleep anywhere’.

What does the Bible have to say about sleep and is it something we should give much thought to as Christians?

The world at large is working out that sleep really matters. Nina Clark, who has been part of RML Mark this year, has been thinking a lot about sleep as she’s been setting up her own pyjama brand. She says “it was just such an eye-opener to realise that sleep is the most important thing you can do for your body & mind. Most of us don’t realise the restorative powers that this down-time has on cleaning out the debris in your brain, storing your memories, and helping your muscles and skin to recover from the day.”

Arianna Huffington (The Sleep Revolution) and others have worked out that being exhausted is counter-productive in life. As Christians we see an added spiritual aspect to a lack of sleep. Late bed times lead to squeezed quiet times. Diminished self-control (in any area of life) seems to go hand in hand with being tired. Sleep, and a lack of it, affects us as we follow Jesus.

Here’s how Emma Whiley (also in RML Mark) described it: “Intentional rest looks different for everyone but I've come to realise that not getting that rest is unwisely stewarding my time. If I don't get those breaks I become grumpy and snappy – not very Christ-like. I find it much harder to be kind, gentle, patient and display self-control when I'm tired or 'peopled-out'.”

So sleeps affects us physically, and spiritually. Christians can go one step further and see that sleep is part of our humanity. It’s one thing in life that makes it clear that we are not God.

In Psalm 4:8 David says “In peace I will both lie down and sleep for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Israel’s great King knew that sleep was a good gift from God and that he could go to sleep because the sovereign Lord would be in charge while he snoozed.

This change in mind-set has been a huge help to me (and means I take fewer secret naps in the day) because I’ve been learning to value going to bed as a part of my created-ness. It’s a mind-set that says ‘I am finite, and dependant on an infinite God – so go to bed!’ Sleep is a good gift from our eternal God, the creator of everything and one who sustains all things.

If you want to look at a few Psalms that reference sleep start with 4, 121 and 127?

Next week we’ll be thinking more about what to when we can’t sleep.

Photo: Jason Trbovich