Sleep is a powerful mood-booster and health-enhancer. It also helps us concentrate on the things that really matter, in this case, staying healthy. A tired brain often sees everyday helps like nutritious eating, plenty of water, vigorous exercise, positive thinking, remembering promises, and reaching out to friends as insurmountable chores. A tired brain also urges us toward self-defeating habits like junk food binging, TV binging, and isolation binging. A vicious cycle can ensue if sleep isn’t a big part of the equation. And that’s the thing, when you’re nervous about germs, thinking through worse-case scenarios, and constantly reading worrisome headlines, the restful, deep sleep that we need is often elusive. I have to admit that recently I’ve spent a few hours lying on my back in bed worrying and it hasn’t helped me. The recent scares about coronavirus haven’t helped us get rejuvenating sleep. But recently, I’ve found that lying down at night reveals a deeper human fear.
Sleep, that habit of slipping into unconsciousness in the darkness of a day closing can subconsciously remind us all of the closing of our lives (Warren). The Psalmist echoes this thought when he says, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.” Sleeping reminds us of our limitations as human beings (Warren). Many a college student has wished to cram a few more hours of studying or work into their schedule, but they find that their tired eyes won’t allow it. Sooner or later, all of us need to rest in unconsciousness no matter how productive we want to be. Collapsing onto a mattress at the end of the day reminds us that we can’t do everything. But this subconscious reminder of our mortality and limitations doesn’t have to be a negative thing. The fact that we are bounded by our need for rest and that we can’t inherently live forever urges us to rely deeply on our Loving Savior and Creator. Psalm 63:3, 6-8 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you…On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”
Our boundaries can warm our hearts with the reality that we must lean heavily on our Loving Heavenly Parent, just like a one-year old hobbling cautiously on his or her shaky legs as the parent lovingly helps them along. As we lay down in our beds, especially now when fear seems to be all around us, we can whisper a contented prayer to God, “Father, I know that sleep means I’m human. Because I’m human, I can’t figure out how to handle health or financial risks on my own. I want to lay these potential worries in your Hands and just let go of my fears. Whatever the future holds, I know that you’ll hold me up and help me hobble to the next step without being enslaved by fear. I look forward to seeing you face-to-face on the final resurrection day. I love you, Amen.”
Let’s all pray that prayer contentedly and confidently at the end of each day, seeing this as an opportunity to rest more deeply in our Savior’s arms. Sleep well!
Warren, Tish Harrison. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2016.