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D.A. Carson:

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. Of course, different individuals require different numbers of hours of sleep: moreover, some cope with a bit of tiredness better than others. Nevertheless, 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, 147)


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15 thoughts on “The Spiritual Discipline of Sleep”

  1. Jonathan says:

    Joyfully exercised this spiritual discipline this morning after an incredibly busy and sleep-deprived 2 weeks!

  2. Well said. I’ve recognized this in myself. When doubt becomes troubling I typically find a growing exhaustion at its source. But given some time to rest, the questions that bothered me no longer seem to be all that overwhelming.

  3. Chris Jalilevand says:

    How is this linked to Jesus’s disciples failing to stay awake in the garden of Gethsemane? I feel like there must be a link but I can’t put my finger on it.

  4. Jennifer A. says:

    Ain’t it the truth. Lack of sleep also contributes to depression, which I define as the inability to look up and see that a loving and holy God is still in control. If the brain doesn’t have enough seratonin, it can become literally impossible to meditate on the good of our Creator and the good work that he is doing in us and in the world. And these conditions perpetuate themselves.

    Isn’t there a verse in the Psalms somewhere about lying down in peace and resting because God is in control?

  5. Rose says:

    I believe, Jennifer, you are thinking of Psalm 4. Psalm 127 has a similar idea, “It’s vain for you to raise up early, to sit up late, for so he gives his beloved sleep.” Sleep can be very complicated, however, it’s not just a matter of trusting God or avoiding overwork. Certain brains are not wired with a good circadian rhythm. I really wish my husband did not need to take the anti-psychotic (sleep aid) he is prescribed. It has some really nasty side effects.

  6. Jerry says:

    I agree! We all need sleep! We all need rest! That’s why God created the Sabbath Day! Without rest, we cannot perform at our max potential for Christ!

  7. Jennifer A. says:

    Rose, I wasn’t implying that sleep is just a matter of faith. I too am on sleep meds for racing thoughts and poor sleep, though I don’t think mine is an anti-psychotic. But I know from experience the connection between lack of sleep and a cynical or even depressed disposition. Distaste for some of my thought patterns is what finally drove me to a medical doctor to get sleep help.

  8. Andy says:

    Just out of curiosity I wonder if people slept better before the internet, blogs, and cell phones. Probably not I guess. Occasionally, I think though that we get so used to reading things on a webpage, cellphone, or what have you – small pieces of information – we let our minds click from one thing to the next without really taking a thought to it’s completion. I think it may be helpful, for some people, if they’re having trouble sleeping, turn off the internet, television, cell phone, for a few days or weeks and see if that helps. The information super highway won’t miss you, it’ll still be there when you get back, and really, you won’t miss much.

  9. dadgramps says:

    working / living like the burning candle picture will many times bring on or add to all sorts of mental illnesss’s paranoia,anxiety,depression,These can come from seemingly “needs”
    like working 2 or more jobs,or many hours at 1.It is not worth it if you are doing it to compensate for sin…workaholic…bad or no budget.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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