Read Psalm 4:8
8 I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (NRSV)
I once spent the night in a sleep clinic in order to check out sleeping patterns. Numerous sensors were attached to my head and body so my movements and sleep state could be measured. Then I was told to go to sleep so the measurements would be valid. Needless to say I got little sleep because I was under so much pressure to sleep—not to mention all the paraphernalia attached to me. On a more mundane level, we can have the same experience when we know we have to be up at the crack of dawn and so urge ourselves to get a good night’s sleep. The more we try to sleep, the less sleep we get.
For something that is meant to bless and refresh us, sleep is sometimes a problem. Our restless minds can keep our weary bodies awake. All the regrets of the day just gone and all the fears about the day to come tend to surface as our heads hit the pillow. The silent darkness can be a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of anxieties. They are the adult equivalent of our childhood bogeymen who made night-time a challenge.
Sleep is one means God uses to render us helpless and even useless. The world gets by without us as we sleep. God keeps things going without our aid or without our worrying. Sleep is his means of refreshing us. Sleep can even help our minds get uncluttered, a way of getting order out of chaos. It is one of God’s good gifts to us.
The psalmist reckons he can sleep peacefully because he knows the Lord God is in charge of his life. He doesn’t have to stay awake worrying because God is always taking care of him. Sleep allows us to ‘clock off’ and leave our life in someone else’s hands. He doesn’t restlessly count sheep but rather rests in the hands of the good shepherd. We can sleep and thus go off-duty because God never slumbers and is always on duty. Sleep is actually a form of faith.