We all have seasons of life where we might get less sleep than we should, but the right amount of sleep is integral for being a mature disciple. Mature disciples get sleep. D. A. Carson explains the importance of sleep:
Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one….If you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need. (Scandalous p. 147)
So why should mature disciples sleep? Here are five integral reasons.
1. Sleep allows us to be fully present in our home, work, and third places.
Being fully present means being ready to engage fully in whatever location you are. In Everpresent, Jeremey Writebol describes the importance of place:
“God has created this very place where I am writing. He has created the very place where you are reading. He has created it by his will. He has created it for his glory. Now, you might challenge that statement because you know some architect drew up the design for this building and a contractor came in and had carpenters, builders, electricians, and plumbers actually make this place. But under God’s authority, using the agency of humanity, he created and holds all things together (Col. 1:15). Place matters because God made it matter. You might feel indifferent to this place right now because it isn’t where you want to be or because it is somehow broken and in disrepair. This place might be a comfortable, quiet place for you right now. It might be a place that doesn’t belong to you; you are a visitor in it for only a season. Whatever the situation, because God has made it and made it for his glory, you are suddenly in God’s place.”
You cannot be fully present if you are half asleep. Mature disciples know this and get enough sleep.
2. Sleep allows us to work with excellence.
Springboarding off the point above. You cannot work with excellence when you are tired. Web MD says,
If you have a demanding job or are trying to get ahead on your responsibilities, you might be caught in a vicious cycle of skimping on or skipping sleep altogether to work longer. But it often tends to backfire, says Sean P.A. Drummond, PhD, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine and Mood Disorders Psychotherapy in the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System. “You’re just not as productive when you lack sleep.”
The article lists four ways lack of sleep affects your work:
- Attention and concentration
- Reaction time
You cannot do work that honors God and represents you well if you are tired. Because most of us spend a good chunk of our day at work, it’s also a primary sphere for missional endeavors. If you are constantly tired and doing bad work, it will make it hard to have a gospel witness and build strong relationships with co-workers.
3. Sleep makes this world our home.
God rested after six days of creating and ordering the world. In The Lost World of Adam and Eve, Dr. John Walton says God rested to make the world his home. As God was doing his creation work, the world was just a house, but when he comes down to rest in it—it’s his home. That backdrop should inform our rest. If God has commissioned our work to imitate his, then we must also imitate his rest. It’s one way we can honor God in the sacred spaces he has placed us in. They’re not just impersonal places. The world is our home. God has given us a certain number of hours in each day and its arrogant to assume we can fulfill the culture mandate as image bearers (Gen. 1-2) and gospel mandate as disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) without following God’s ordering of creation.
4. Sleep allows us to demonstrate humility and dependence on God.
Sleep also shows dependence on God. We cannot do the work he has commissioned us to do on our own. We do not know better than him. We need sleep. We sleep to demonstrate humility and dependence. Furthermore as a parent, I have to remember I’m responsible to ensure my children get the proper sleep. They are disciples under my care. Douglas Wilson says, “Remember their frame (Ps. 103:14). Don’t skip naps, keep them up until 11:30, withhold a real dinner, and then paddle them for falling apart. Someone should paddle you for pulling them apart” (“Mechanics of Fatherhood”). Making sure our children get enough sleep prepares them to be mature disciples and teaches them dependence on God. Mature disciples get enough sleep and ensure those they shepherd get enough sleep as well. Humility and dependence starts in our beds.
5. Sleep promotes balance in life
Nothing is more practical than sleep. I have battled depression for most of my life. I had a break through 5-6 years ago—a good night sleep and a regular routine covered a multitude of sin. Several recent studies have linked too little or too much sleep with depression. Get the right amount of sleep. There will always be exceptions or a busy season, but the rule should be sleep is a priority. Sleep just keeps our bodies in good working order. Not everyone struggles with depression, but we all have our own issues. Doctors have made a connection between sleep and our overall health. 90% of people with insomnia have other major health issues. “[L]ack of sleep,” shows one study, “doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.” Yikes! A good night’s sleep will help your entire life balance and that will help you as you stay on mission as a disciple of King Jesus. So don’t neglect sleep.
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and contributed in Make, Mature, Multiply (GCD Books). He completed over forty hours of seminary work at Geneva Reformed Seminary. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and project manager for CBMW’s journal. Mathew offers freelance editing and book formatting. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.