A Theology of Sleep (Part One)

I’ve been asked to share my “Theology of Sleep” which I taught in a Student Life class here at TMC last year.  There are ten points, all containing a “Theology” and a “Therefore.”  Then there are seven practical applications.  I’ll post it in three parts.

It can be very hard to think rightly about sleep, and it’s difficult to live a balanced life of labor and rest.  Here’s my attempt at the former, in order to help me and others do the latter.

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A Theology of Sleep (Part One)
David Gunner Gundersen
December 4, 2004

1. Theology: God does not sleep, showing that He is in control of all things (Ps 121:3-4; Isa 40:28).  Therefore: Put your work aside at night, pillow your head, and meditate on God’s sovereign, unresting control over the affairs of the world, the church, the people you’re caring for, and yourself.  He will work while you sleep.  So sleep.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep (Ps 121:3-4).

His energy is inexhaustible.  His protection is constant.

2. Theology: Jesus did sleep, showing that He is in control of all things (Matt 8:24; also Mark 4:38).  Therefore: When you can’t sleep due to anxiety, imagine Jesus sleeping in your boat.  Ask Him to calm your storm, and go to sleep.  Having Jesus in your boat sleeping is better than having a hundred men bailing water.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep (Matt 8:24).

3. Theology: Having to sleep proves that you are not God (1 Kgs 18:27; also Isa 40:28; Ps 121:3-4).  Therefore: When you are tired, be humbled by your humanity, and staggered by God’s indefatigability.

It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he [Baal] is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened” (1 Kgs 18:27).

4. Theology: Sleeping peacefully can be a manifestation of trust in God (Ps 4:8).  Therefore: Consider seriously how you sleep: anxious or composed?  Identify your anxious thoughts, and renew your mind with the calm assurances of the promises of God.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety (Ps 4:8).

5. Theology: Your every last waking moment is futile apart from God’s work (Ps 127:1-2).  Therefore: Ask yourself why you rise early and retire late.  It may be because you think that you are the great Laborer, the great Changer of Hearts, the indispensable Worker.  This thought is very wrong.  Forsake it, trust Him, and go to sleep earlier and more often than you do.  He will work through the night.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in His sleep (Ps 127:1-2).

Our God is the God of the all-nighter.  Not our all-nighter, but His


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