Sleep Surrender

Are you living beyond your means spiritually? Spending more than you have in the bank, as it were?

In his book “The Good and Beautiful God,” James Bryan Smith suggests that many of us are living beyond our design as we refuse to spend adequate time sleeping. We are actually created to sleep for one third of our lives. Our sleep deficit, something many people struggle with, affects our health, memory, productivity, and even our ability to pray. A lack of sleeps impedes our own spiritual growth because as Smith points out, “we can not neglect the body in pursuit of spiritual growth.” Our bodies desperately need a hard reset during every 24-hour cycle.

Reframing Sleep

Smith says, “Sleep is the perfect example of the combination of discipline and grace.” Since you can’t actually make yourself go to sleep, it is something that we must surrender to.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 121:3-4 tells us that God does not slumber nor sleep. He is forever watchful and vigilant. However, we are not called to that level of monitoring. Going to sleep is like confessing that we are not God, and acknowledging that He will accomplish His will without our sleep deprived efforts.

Sleep as a Spiritual Discipline

Try setting a goal to sleep longer.  Set a goal for a minimum of seven hours and even up to eight per night. Take time to create an atmosphere in your bedroom that facilitates quality sleep. Do you need the room to be darker? Do you need to adjust the thermostat for a cooler night? Can you set aside electronics and exposure to those little blue lights on electronic screens in the last few hours before you go to bed? Smith calls sleep the anti-discipline. However, it is worth the effort because sleep is entirely necessary and you always need it.   


For me personally, sleep is quite challenging. I like millions of people have a sleep disorder that requires all kinds of accessories for me to go to sleep. I can remember as a younger person, pre-diagnosis of moderate sleep apnea, I bragged about my ability to sleep anywhere, anytime. Evidently being able to fall asleep within three minutes is not necessarily nearly as impressive as it might be a sign of severe exhaustion.

At the end of the chapter on sleep, Smith challenges his readers to try being much more intentional about sleep and then record your thoughts about the following question:

 “What, if anything, did you learn about God or yourself through this exercise?”

I learned that my perfectionism has caused me to become quite anxious about sleep. I worry about creating the perfect way to keep my airway open. I sometimes obsess over the reports my CPAP machine produces, and I feel like I am forever on a quest to get a “perfect night’s sleep.” I have allowed myself to make sleep into hard work and after several surgical procedures and more medications than I would care to count, it doesn’t always happen. However, even in that I can trust God. He is my provider. Every night I have an opportunity to surrender to the God of the universe, and I will choose to embrace that as my discipline.

How about you?

Anthea Kotlan – St. Timothy’s Anglican Church

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