We often attribute the qualities of our character to great teachers in our past. Most, if not all, of these teachers are usually people who have been joined to our lives by circumstance or chance. Nannies, nurses, teachers, tutors, friends and even foes positively or negatively contribute to our emotional, spiritual, educational, and intellectual development.
It seems that only on the rarest of occasion do we attribute our development to inanimate entities. When we do speak of these things we have a tendency to refer to them with such colorful monikers as “the school of hard knocks,” “education by trial and tribulation,” “baptized by fire,”, or “learning the hard way.” However, failure to be fully aware of our surroundings can cause us to miss some equally great teachers and great lessons.
One inanimate entity that is rarely recognized as a great teacher is that of “sleep.” When was the last time you thought of “sleep” as your instructor, let alone the important lessons that sleep can teach you? I guess the first question to really consider would be, “what could sleep possibly teach us?”
“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalms 127:2, ESV)
The first thing that we see in this passage is that sleep derives from God as a gift. God gives his children sleep. We do not have to endure guilt or anxiety in regards to our employment or enjoyment of sleep. God created the human body with the capacity to require sleep.
Like any gift from God, sleep can be abused. When we try to either go without sleep or we spend an inordinate amount of time asleep we are abusing this great gift. On the rarest of occasions, such as illness, injury, or insensibility, we may sleep more than the typical required amount in order to heal emotionally or physically.
The second thing we see in this passage is that sleep develops our faith. When we sleep we are forced to cease trusting in ourselves and our abilities and trust God. We are driven by our need of sleep to recognize that we have limitations. We are not indestructible or invincible. We are bound by our limitations. We are taught that we don’t have to work all of the time to have and maintain the things that we need. God knows what we need and will provide them. He will provide them even during a time of sleep.
The third thing we see in this passage is that sleep diminishes greed and anxiety. It is interesting to note that Solomon unequivocally states that it is vain, fruitless, lacking substance or worth; it is to no avail or success, to get up extremely early and to stay up extremely late to plant or harvest. Rising early or retiring late will not make our food grow any faster or with a great yield. You might set up to watch corn grow, but it won’t grow any faster because you are watching it. Mind you this was written by an agrarian king in an agrarian society. We don’t plant and harvest as they did in Solomon’s time, but we soon learn the similar tendency to work harder than smarter and to worry about what we cannot control.
Enjoy this great gift from God! Remember, to not abuse it by refusing sleep, over indulging in sleep, or becoming anxious because sleep curtails our activities in acquiring things we think we need or want. Also, remember to give thanks to God for this precious gift.