I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
How precious our sleep is! How important it is our sleep is. One-third of our day (and hence one-third of our lives) is supposed to be spent on sleeping, and like it or not, that’s the most time you’re going to spend on any one thing. Sleep is important – it gives us physical rest, and physical health is crucial to emotional and spiritual health. Have you ever had insomnia? Have you ever lost sleep on nightmares, or spent 10 hours sleeping only to wake up in cold sweat and feel even more exhausted than before? Or have you ever been too afraid to sleep, because you are scared that you won’t be able to wake up? It’s a legitimate concern. Many people die in their sleep, even youngsters, with an unexpected heart failure. When you wake up each day, do you thank God that you’ve been able to wake up? It might be a bit redundant, but should the Lord not sustain us, we won’t be able to wake up. Should the Lord not protect us, we won’t be able to have a good night’s sleep. Should the Lord not enable us, we won’t be able to lie down and sleep. In this study we will examine the nature of sleeping and God’s role in ensuring that we are able to rest.
I lie down and sleep – I used to suffer quite badly from insomnia, and back then sleeping wasn’t as straight forward as it says here in this verse – I lie down, but I couldn’t sleep. I would toss and turn, turn and toss, count lambs, count sheep, count the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling, do a few sets of push-ups to tire myself out – but still I couldn’t sleep. Eventually, of course, I would knock out and sleep, but by the time I wake up I’d realise in dismay that I’ve only managed a couple of hours of sleep and feel an exhaustion that was beyond the physical realm. I’ve learnt that it takes a courageous heart to be able to lie down and sleep immediately. It takes a heart that’s able to put aside its fears and worries to be able to drift off into sleep. It might sound implausible to some, since I do think that most people do take their sleeping for granted, but for a period of time I really dreaded the nights when the time to sleep came. It was really when I was older and learnt how to enjoy the peace of God with faith that I began to be able to lie down and sleep immediately.
I wake again – One of the reasons for being unable to sleep was the fear of being unable to wake up. It wasn’t a volitional thing – you cannot control yourself or control what happens as you sleep. What makes you so sure that you’ll wake up at the end of the night? What makes you so confident that you will be able to open your eyes again? What makes you so sure that your traitorous heart will not fail you in the middle of your sleep? My brother had to have operation recently because it was discovered that there were periods of time when he stopped breathing during his sleep. How scary. Occasionally I would simply not sleep because the fear of not being able to wake up paralyzed me. These days I no longer have those fears, and it actually seems kind of ridiculous now that I’m over it, but it was so real in that phase of my life. Every morning, when I open my eyes from sleep, the first prayer I’d make is simple enough – thank you God for waking me up. Thank you Lord for another beautiful day. Again.
the Lord sustains me – It is the peace of God that enables us to lie down and be able to sleep – Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Looking back all my issues with sleeping were all because of an insecure heart. I couldn’t trust my body. I couldn’t trust the people I lived with. I couldn’t trust that the place I stayed in would be able to protect me. And as much as I prayed, I was unable to bring myself to overcome my fear. But the Lord sustains us, just like how he sustains the natural ecosystems, just like how we still have oxygen to breathe in and water to drink from. Just like how the birds somehow always find their worms – you’d have thought after thousands of years worms would have learnt not to crawl where birds can find them. The Lord sustains, with his supernatural power, with his grace, with his love.
Do you ever have problems sleeping? Say when you are facing with a life crisis. Or when you are too excited and nervous? Or perhaps you just fear sleeping itself, like I once did. Well I am embarrassed to admit that it didn’t get much better for me so easily – I never sought help, and I never let my family know, but I began studying and working at nights just so I could avoid the feeling of having to confront my fears before I sleep. It’s not that I became asomniac, I still had to sleep, but eventually it became a system where I feel asleep on top of my keyboard out of pure exhaustion, not because I wanted to sleep. That was how I slowly coped, by exercising and making myself so busy that I would fall asleep without having to think too much. But yet at the back of my mind today I know it’s God, it’s all God.
Thank you God for waking me up. Thank you Lord for another beautiful day. Thank you Lord for sustaining me. Again.