Wise Sleep – Part 3

In Proverbs 3v21-26 Solomon exhorts his son not to let wisdom out of his sight(21).  And details the blessings of living that way: it brings life(22), provides safety and security as we navigate life(23), removes fear so we sleep soundly(24), and frees us from the debilitating terror of sudden disaster or ruin(25).  How is that possible?

Because wisdom begins with knowing God.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning, the foundation of living skilfully in God’s world.  Look carefully at(26), Solomon tells us why we can be free from fear and anxiety that would rob us of sleep, “for the LORD will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”  Wisdom is knowing God and not letting him out of your sight, not letting circumstances, fears, or if only’s, crowd God out of view because he is with his people.

Have you ever taken a child to a big sporting event or concert?  There’s 80,000 people and you don’t want to let them out of your sight, because to do so would be to lose them, so what do you do? You hold tightly to them.  That’s what Solomon is saying about God.  In the midst of 80,000 possible worries, if only’s, and anxieties don’t let God out of your sight.  It’s knowing God and knowing that he’s with you, interested, present, caring, sovereign, good, that you can trust him with each and every if only, that enables us to sleep sweetly.

Solomon isn’t saying don’t worry be sleepy.  He’s saying take those fears, that dread, to school. Teach them, train them, shrink them back into perspective as you see them in the light of the God who is your Father and who is with you.  Sleeping is an act of, as well as the result of, trust in God.  It is us getting out of the way for a while so God can act.

Psalm 4 was written in a time of national crisis, we don’t know exactly what but everywhere David looks there’s pressure.  What does he do?  He cries out to God.  What does he pray for?  (6)”let the light of your face shine on us…”  He prays that Israel will know God, because then they’ll have a security bigger than this current crisis or the next one or the next one.  And it leads to sleep even in crisis, because (8)“you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

Solomon’s wisdom echoes David’s experience.  Sound sleep begins with wise wakefulness, don’t let God out of your sight, see God, feed on God, who he is, what he has done, how he feels about us, his love and care for us.  Ultimately see it at the cross, the supreme demonstration of God’s love and willingness to involve himself in his world for his people. Sweet sleep begins with wise wakefulness – not allowing God to be crowded out by the world and its worries.

Jesus taught his disciples the same lesson in Matthew 6v25-34. Jesus addresses the issue of anxiety and worry.  He doesn’t say don’t worry be happy.  But don’t worry because you know and trust your heavenly Father’s care.  (32)He knows what you need and you can trust him to provide it.  How much of our sleeplessness is caused by anxieties and worries, dreads that are at root the result of a lack of faith or a forgetfulness about God?  God cares about those things, he wants us to bring them to him and in turn bring him to them and so change the way we think and feel about them.  Sound sleep begins with wise wakefulness that won’t lose sight of God but intentionally sets out to know God.  Not letting the day with its worries crowd God out, but keeping him in view and fears in perspective.

Sleep is God’s gift to us.  It’s a reminder that he’s sovereign and so we can turn off, disconnect, and exercise trust in his goodness and loving fatherly care whilst we sleep.  And that process begins with wise wakefulness that won’t let God out of our sight all day, that brings those situations to him, and exercises trust in him.

How is your sleep?  Maybe we need to repent of ignoring God’s good gift of sleep, of fighting your creatureliness and dependence on God and resolve to turn off the distractions, minimise the blue light, have wise routines, and remind ourselves of the nature of God, and pursue sleep as an expression of trust in God’s goodness.  Even as a way of worship.

Maybe for others it’s not letting our fears and anxieties crowd God out of our sight during the day, but wrestling to keep God in view.  Taking time to shoot up an arrow prayer in a crisis, creating a time to read and pray in the morning, the evening and/or throughout the day so that wise wakefulness means you’re trusting God as you come to sleep so that “when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”  Asking others to pray for and with us as we battle anxiety and fears that rob us of sleep, and to keep pointing us to our good, good, Father.  Spurring us on to trust in our heavenly Father’s care.

Perhaps you’ve let God out of your sight, you’re go to church but it feels like habit, you feel disconnected, and that you’re drowning in a sea of dread.  We sleep but God doesn’t, he doesn’t drift off or forget, he’s with us, we’ve just lost sight of him, but he hasn’t lost sight of us.  The cross reminds us he could never forget us.  Why not pray now?  Bring your worries and anxieties to him?  Confess how you feel?  Ask God to help you pursue him, keep him in sight, so you know the comfort of his care and the gift of sweet sleep, and then resolve to put things in place that help you not let him out of your sight.  Ask someone to pray with you and help you.

How is your sleep?

Wise Sleep – Part 2

How much sleep did you get last night?  What would your average sleep per night be for the last week? The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person and over the course of a lifetime.  But for most of us we’re not getting enough sleep to be fully rested.  Here’s the average number of hours sleep a day you need:

6-13 years: 9-11 hours

14-17 years: 8-10 hours

18-25 years: 7-9 hours

26-64 years: 7-9 hours

65+ years: 7-8 hours.

personal-insights-interactive-health-chicago-schaumburg-workplace-wellness-program-coach-insomnia-sleepHow do you do compared to those averages?  In our society a lack of sleep is viewed as heroic, you’ve pushed on through, you’re hard, ‘there’s time to sleep when you’re dead’ is a phrase we hear. We regularly hear stories of people who achieved because they only needed four hours sleep a night.  It leads us to think of sleep as the enemy, or a necessary evil.  But that is to rebel against the way God made us.  Here are 8 consequences of regular inadequate sleep culled from Matthew Walkers brilliant ‘Why we sleep’:

  1. your immune system is damaged increasing the likelihood of developing cancer,
  2. is a key factor in whether you develop Alzheimer’s,
  3. disrupts blood sugar making you pre-diabetic,
  4. increases the chance of heart disease,
  5. contributes to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions,
  6. produces a hormone that makes us hungry even when we’re full,
  7. shortens lifespan
  8. drowsy driving causes more accidents than alcohol and drugs combined

We were made to sleep.  Sleep is God’s gift to us, too much sleep because of sheer laziness can be a problem as other Proverbs point out, yet too little sleep is also a problem, a sin.  And yet some of us have drifted into patterns of unhealthy sleep.  Allowing a desire to be entertained to rob us of sleep to just finish that box set, or level, or read that feed.  Blue light in particular, like that from our phones, iPads, and TV’s, impacts our ability to sleep, disrupting the production of the melatonin we need to sleep because it simulates sunlight.

Alcohol and caffeine also disrupt our sleep patterns, caffeine for example has a 6 hour half life and takes 24 hours to fully work its way out of our system.  So that coffee you’ve just had, 25% of its caffeine will still be present in your body at 10.30 tonight, and that makes it harder to fall asleep.

We also don’t have a regular time to go to bed and wake up – we do it for our kids, bath at 6, story time at 6.30, lights out at 7, all positively encouraging sleep, cooling the body temperature, soothing, non-stimulating.  But we don’t apply the wisdom to ourselves – we rebel against our bodies natural God given rhythms.

Some of those things we just need to stop.  We need to listen to our bodies and God and recognise that if we rebel against our bodies God given rhythms there will be consequences.  As those called to honour God with our bodies, we need to sleep.  It’s an act of rebellion not to.  There’s also a link between sin and sleeplessness, tiredness, and staying up late.  We stay up late we get grumpy, in our irritability we sin against others.  Or staying up late we leave ourselves vulnerable to other sins in what we watch or do.

Sleep is a godly discipline, a way of reflecting and respecting our creatureliness and honouring our creator.  Maybe you’ve never thought of sleep like that, and so you’ve just drifted into unhealthy patterns.  Stop, think, repent and change.  Honour God in what you do, in how you set your rhythms, what you put into your body, what you watch, when you watch it, and when you go to bed.

But what else stops us sleeping?  Look at Proverbs 3v24.  Solomon paints a picture of someone enjoying a restful nights sleep, sleep that is sweet – good, pleasant – from which you wake refreshed.  How are they able to enjoy that?  Because “you will not be afraid.”  The Hebrew is actually stronger than fear, the word is dread.  Terror, fear, anxiety, dread stops us sleeping.

We’ve all had those nights where it’s impossible to turn our brains off, where we run through every possible scenario to every situation we’re facing and every possible anxious outcome.  Like one of those choose your own path books where at the end of the page if you do A you turn to page 9, or if you do B turn to page 14,except we’re trying to work out what will happen if we do A, B, C, D, E, F, G and so on.  Crossing bridge after bridge after bridge endlessly, or thinking if only, if only, if only.  Until we’ve tied ourselves in knots and hours of sleeplessness have ticked by, and then we watch every flicker of the numbers on the clock aware that we should be asleep, becoming anxious about how we’ll face tomorrow so tired.

Fear, anxiety, terror, dread, rob us of sleep. Even chronic insomnia, not just occasionally being unable to sleep, but ‘an inadequate ability to sleep even when allowing adequate opportunity to sleep’ is most commonly triggered by emotional worries or concerns, distress or anxiety.

And sometimes we feed that anxiety by distracting ourselves with our social media feeds, or by dealing with work emails when we can’t sleep– reasoning that at least we’re dealing with something, but actually making our anxiety worse and sleep less likely.

Proverbs warns us that fear robs us of sleep, which is God’s gift to us.  Dread drains us of the sleep we need.  And Solomon knew all about anxiety.  As a young man he’d become Israel’s king, with his brother having tried unsuccessfully to steal his kingdom even before his coronation, and then plotting to overthrow him just afterwards.  Then there’s the pressure of succeeding David, Israel’s greatest king, and of all Israel looking to him, coming to him for judgment on their problems, looking to him to uphold justice.  World leaders know anxiety, fear and pressure, that’s partly why we must pray for them.  When Solomon speaks of being able to sleep because you are free from the fear of sudden disaster or ruin, or being caught in a snare, we should listen to how he enjoys that.

God cares about how we sleep.  Sleep is God’s good gift to us.  “In vain you rise up early and stay up late toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves.”  Psalm 127v2.  Sleep is God’s gift.  He wants us to enjoy it.  But in a broken world, a world of glory but also of garbage, anxiety and fear press in and make sleep hard.

How is your sleep?  What does it reveal about us?  Is the problem distraction?  Is it bad habits we need to change?  Have you swallowed the lie that you don’t need sleep?  Or that it’s for wimps?  Is it a rebellion against our creatureliness?  Or is it anxiety that robs us of rest?  We live on a nervous planet, so how can we enjoy good sleep?

Wise Sleep – Pt 1

Imagine you saw this advert online:

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you livelonger.  It enhances your memory and makes you more creative.  It makes you look more attractive.  It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings.  It protects you from cancer and dementia.  It wards off colds and the flu.  It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes.  You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious.  Are you interested?personal-insights-interactive-health-chicago-schaumburg-workplace-wellness-program-coach-insomnia-sleep

Imagine you saw that advertised.  What would you do?  You’d be at the doctors asking for some, or at the chemist buying it.  Who wouldn’t want all those benefits?  But it isn’t a new wonder drug or treatment, but the scientifically proven benefits of a full nights sleep.  Isn’t that amazing?

God in his wisdom created us with a circadian rhythm of awake and asleep, at creation he split a 24 hour day into day and night so that everyday we’d benefit from his gift of sleep with all its attendant blessings.  And yet two thirds of adults in the developed world fail to get 8 hours of sleep a night.  According to the World Health Organisation we are facing a pandemic of sleeplessness in the Western world.

God made us to sleep, it’s his gift to us, it is a necessary part of how he made us.  And yet sin means we view it as wasted time, as a missed opportunity to be more productive. As something we can skimp on. In these three posts I want to pause and think about what God has to say about sleep because he made us, he knows how we thrive, and he cares about us. As God’s people living in God’s world we want to honour him in every area of life, but have we thought about how we do that with our sleep, maybe the very idea feels wrong. Often we think we honour God by our activity, doing, doing, doing.  Maybe we struggle to think we can honour God in our sleep?  Or that God even cares about it.

What is your theology of sleep?  How much does that theology impact how you live?