Pastoral Ministry and the Struggle to Sleep

Christopher Ash | March 14, 2016

In many ways, sleep is a strange and puzzling phenomenon. We know what it is to have deep and restful sleep and to wake refreshed. We know what it is to have too little sleep. We know what it is to have plenty of hours in bed and yet not wake feeling refreshed. But often we don’t really understand what makes the difference between them.

One thing, though, is clear: you and I do need sleep; it’s a fundamental mark of our mortality. And the psalmist rebukes us when we behave as if we don’t:

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. (Ps. 127:2)

It’s the Lord who “builds the house” and “watches over the city” (Ps. 127:1)—the great project of building the people of God. In this age, that project is Christian gospel work. And it’s in this context we hear the rebuke to sleeplessness arising from “anxious toil.”

The Bible doesn’t rebuke us when we work hard for Jesus; such hard work is consistently commended in the Scriptures. Notice, for example, the refrain of those commended in Romans 16. Nor does Scripture rebuke those who make sacrifices for Jesus and his…

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