Seeing as I can't for the life of me get motivated to finish off some work at this exact minute, here are some thoughts on the spirituality of sleep that I've been tossing around lately, and experiencing firsthand.
"Sleep" from The Valley of VisionBlessed Creator,Thou hast promised thy beloved
(me!) sleep;Give me restoring rest needful for tomorrow's toil;If dreams be mine, let them not be tinged with evil.Let thy Spirit make thy time of resposea blessed temple of his holy presence.May my frequent lying down make me familiar with death,the bed I approach remind me of the grave,the eyes I now close picture to me their final closing.Keep me always reading, waiting for admittance to thy presence.Weaken my attachment to earthly things.May I hold life loosely in my hand,knowing that I receive it on condition of its surrender;
As pain and suffering betoken transitory health,may I not shrink from a death that introduces meto the freshness of eternal youth.I retire this night in full assurance of one dayawaking with thee
(oh the bliss of this glorious thought!)All glory for this precious hope,for the gospel of grace,for thine unspeakable gift of Jesus,for the fellowship of the Trinity.Withhold not thy mercies in the night season;thy hand never wearies,thy power needs no repose,thine eye never sleeps.Help me when I helpless lie,when my conscience accuses me of sin,when my mind is harassed by foreboding thoughts,when my eyes are held awake by personal anxieties.Show thyself to me as the God of all grace,love and power;thou hast a balm for every wound,a solace for every anguish,a remedy for every pain,a peace for all disquietude.Permit me to commit myself to thee awake or asleep.
"Withhold not thy mercies in the night season..." Just as I am writing this, the CD Cheri put on is playing Mark Altrogge's song "Mercies Anew", whose lyrics read "and at the end of the day, when my labours are through, I will sing of your mercies anew." Echoes of Jeremiah, from Lamentations 3:21-24: "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him.”
But isn't it the case that so often when we lie down to sleep, this is the time when our flesh, our thoughts, and the Accuser come to churn up anxiety and worry in our hearts, even though Christ has said "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27) I could be tempted to say that 'I come from a long line of worriers' or that worry 'is only human' but that type of reasoning would only be putting an artificial gloss on the problem until the next time, or the next night. The answer lies in the above verses from Lamentations: "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope." This is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Piper and C.J. Mahaney and Jerry Bridges have all referred to as 'preaching the gospel to yourself' in their writing. I won't go into detail here, but it is the essence of Jesus' words in John 14:27 before he counsels our hearts against fear: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you." In Colossians 3:15 Paul admonishes us to "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Paul is advising that we abdicate the goverance of the state of our hearts, which is futile anyhow on a human level, and give it up to the content and truth of the gospel of Christ - that gospel which is in and of itself the tangible manifestation of the 'peace' Paul refers to. In other words, it's not a vague, hazy good feeling of "all's right with the world," although that is generally true because of God's sustaining sovereignty over his creation. Rather, it's a content-rich, informed knowledge that Christ has made peace with the Father on our behalf, securing everlasting peace and redemption with God, even into eternity. We can surely sleep the sleep of the blessed upon the grounds of that promise.
What does this have to do with sleep? Everything. Consider: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 sleep.
Psalm 127:2If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
And the following, which my friend Greg sent me, and sums up all the above:In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
So thank you Greg, and thank you anonymous puritans, and thank you David and Solomon, and thank you all the writers mentioned above, and above all, thank you, glorious Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thank you for the sleep that acts as a reminder of the sleep of death that will introduce us into heaven, and which provides us with restoring rest needful for tomorrow's toil.
A final thought, courtesy of hymnwriter Frances R Havergal:Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest; finding in his promise perfect peace and rest.
(from "Like A River Glorious")
Sleep well and wake, either here or in heaven.