Theology of Sleep
O how much energy gets wasted on over-worrying… how many sleepless nights!!!
It’s true that responsibilities engender some worry, and very true that faith is NOT centered in our feelings and emotions but rather in our heart which is the deepest part of our being; BUT “over-worry” is a burden that God never intended for us to carry!
The account of Jesus’s capacity to sleep in the middle of a storm at sea is one of the most intense moments in the Gospels: Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King’s College, London, reflects in a successful illustration this capacity. A noisy pictorial in which the wavy shapes are woven the whole scene: sea scrolls, Jesus’ robe, and even Jesus’ hair are orchestration of extremes in creating a “legitimate over-worry” but it all contrasts with the luminous peaceful sleepy face of the Lord!!
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book points at an important point when it comes to this incident:
“A great phrase from the Psalms – the one “who keeps Israel [God] will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121.4). So it is an amazing thing, then, to find Jesus, the divine Son, sleeping. It is an illustration of what God’s taking our human nature upon Him actually involves….
Such sleep is an expression of peace…it is the sleep of innocence, like that of Adam in the Garden of Eden – like that deep sleep which the Lord God caused to come upon him, in which he had nothing to fear… That was humanity’s first sleep – the sleep of a child. Adam slept secure in the knowledge that God was providing for him – which his deepest desires were things that God made it his concern to meet!!
In another psalm (127) the second verse reminds us, “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved in his sleep.” Accordingly, sleep is a gift of love, but this gift is often despised by anxious grind. Peaceful sleep is the opposite of anxiety. Pastor J. Piper puts it beautifully! he says” God does not want His children to be anxious, but to trust Him. Therefore … God made sleep as a continual reminder that we should not be anxious but should rest in Him. Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). But Israel will. For we are not God…. Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps.”
Bishop Joseph Naffah when speaking of psalm 126 (When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like them that dream…) he affirms that this psalm of Ascents is a prayer, a statement of confidence that the Lord will intervene to ameliorate the lot of His people …. The perfect tenses of the first few verses do not refer to the past but should be seen as prophetic perfects constituting a future that will be secured by a God true to His promises… In this confidence, Israel sleeps and dreams, history will prove that this “dream” comes true: tears will turn into joy, suffering in the exile is not the end of the road… the Lord will bring about salvation!! Sleep here is not a thoughtless sleep of one who depends on other people’s observance or work but it is like an act of faith, a reminder that comes around with the same message every day: when man is not sovereign, when things are out of control, God wants to be trusted as the great worker who never tires and never sleeps and His salvation shall come!!
So, today we pray:
In our insomniac age, may we have this peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on Him…
And may we sleep well tonight!!