Tuesday, June 3, 2008

C.J. Mahaney on sleep

Let's assume you live for 75 years. If so, you spend about 25 of them sleeping! What does God have to say about the 1/3 of our lives we spend asleep?

I love my sleep. I need a nap every afternoon to make me a reasonable human being. So this post by my fellow afternoon napper caught my eye. She writes about C.J.Mahaney's talk on sleep. It's fantastic to see a modern preacher dealing with the topic of sleep!

Christians in past centuries gave clear teaching on sleep. The Puritans encouraged Christians, before they slept, to repent of the day's sins, give thanks for the day's mercies, and pray for God's preservation during sleep. They told people to meditate on sleep as an image of death, and the sheets as their winding clothes!

C.J., clearly influenced by the Puritans, has 3 important things to say about sleep:
  1. Sleep is a daily gift from God. If we neglect sleep for "anxious toil" our health and mood will suffer (Ps. 127:1-2). (Not an excuse for laziness - Prov. 20:13).
  2. Sleep is a daily reminder of our dependence on God. God could have made us with no need for sleep. Sleep reminds us that we are creatures, not the Creator, who "neither slumbers nor sleeps" (Ps. 121:3-4).
  3. Sleep is a daily opportunity to examine our hearts. The 15-20 minutes it may take to fall sleep, is a great time to examine our hearts, repent of the day's sinful attitudes and behaviour, and thank God for his forgiveness in Christ (Ps. 4:4).
A spiritual solution for insomnia?
C.J. suggests if we find it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep soundly, we should look at primary, spiritual issues before secondary, physical issues (although these may be involved). When we can't sleep, we should ask:
  • Do I depend on, and trust in God? David slept sweetly even when pursued by murderous enemies (Ps. 3:1-6). I know that fear of intruders, anxiety about the future, and proud workaholism (as if God can't do his job while I sleep!) all stop me sleeping.
  • Am I walking in wisdom and obedience? God's Word tells us that if we walk in wisdom, our sleep will be sweet (Prov. 3:21-24). Examining our hearts, and seeking God's forgiveness, can help us to sleep soundly.

Concluding meditation
Here's a wonderful meditation on sleep as a picture of our absolute dependence on God's grace. A great final reflection for the day!

Each night sleep is a picture and parable of what it means to be a Christian. Each night sleep is a very small, but real, act of faith. Each night I lay my full weight in a relaxed state on the bed, trusting that structure to support me. I am completely relaxed. There is no fear or concern. There is no effort on my part. I make no contribution to the support I am experiencing. Something else is holding me. And through the night, Someone else is sustaining me. And this is a picture of what it's like to be a Christian.

I pray that we would all sleep sweetly and refreshingly tonight, with souls stilled and quieted, like trusting children in the arms of God (Ps. 131).


Nicole said...

I just was listening to this talk today and was going to blog about it. But I think I'll just refer people to this post instead!

Hope you are going okay!


Jean said...

Sorry, Nicole, didn't mean to jump the gun!! Refer away if you like. It was a hard one to summarise well. But if you noticed or were struck by something different to me, or have another quote to share (I cut out lots), tell us, I'd love to know!

janet said...

i loved your ending. asking that we may sleep with our souls stilled, in trust of God. it made me feel safe.
thank you. it brought to mind the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat. perfectly rested in His fathers care. as the disciples worried about the storm.

Susie said...

A great read. Given my man is a sleep physician it offers a whole new perspective on insomnia and the importance our daily rest.

Honoria said...

I sent your sleeping post to a few people - Love it! So loving of God remind us of our dependence on him for little / big things.

It's been raining in Sydney and that reminded me of his provision and his sovereignty (How long and where it rains, withholding rain is all up to him).

If you around at the time, do you think you would have been a Puritan or a Calvinist / other?

Jean said...

Always a Puritan and a Calvinist (same diff anyway) - always!

Jean said...

Or rather, let's say that I believe that "He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses" (Psalm 135:7) and that "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (Matt. 10:29).

Not to mention "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps" (Prov. 16:9) and "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases" (Prov. 21:1).

It's not Calvinism or Puritanism, although I love the way they taught it. It's the Bible!