Psalm 119:147-148 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises.
You might call this “fasting sleep.” We have a strange relationship with sleep, just as we do with food. Both are essential, and extended disruptions to either can be disastrous. However, we can over-value them as well, allowing them to displace other important elements of our lives. Food is fairly well understood by most people, but sleep is not. Sleep deprivation is a major issue, actually. In Japan, and I believe some other Asian countries, students are expected to sacrifice sleep in order to study. That can work in the short term, as anyone who has crammed for an exam believes, but it can have major negative impact in the long term. I had long wondered why Japanese, who are seldom fat, had such a high incidence of type-2 diabetes, but then a report came out that said chronic sleep deprivation in the teenage years was linked to higher risk of diabetes, and everything clicked. The study was done in America, but the average Japanese high school student gets only about 5 hours of sleep a night, and that’s average; there are those who get less. With long commutes, that often carries over into adult years. Some people might applaud that, seeing it as dedication, but it is really a matter of misplaced priorities. Today, there are many who sacrifice sleep in order to watch TV or play video games. That’s certainly not the right kind of dedication! All of that is in sharp contrast to what the Psalmist is talking about here. He is facing difficulties in life, as we all do, but his choice is to focus on God and what He has said. There have been times in the history of the Church when all night prayer meetings were not so uncommon, but today people are far more likely to indulge in a “marathon” of TV watching or computer gaming. We need to be good stewards of our bodies/health in both food and sleep, but be willing to fast either or both, giving preference to the Word of the Lord.
I have discovered that rising early (in winter it’s certainly before dawn) to have plenty of time for devotions is an avenue of real blessing, but I have to compensate by going to bed early, too. As a pastor that’s not always possible, because emergencies in the congregation don’t depend on the clock, but that’s what I have found works well for me. I earnestly desire that everyone in the church develop strong habits of personal devotions, but I find a lot of the resistance comes from the whole sleep issue. People aren’t willing to go to bed in time to get enough sleep before getting up in time to have devotions before starting the day. People tend to react to my teaching on the subject with, “You’re messing with my personal life. How dare you!” I can’t change their hearts, but I can pray for them. Making Jesus Lord extends to every area of our lives. That applies even to food and sleep.
Father, I fear coming across as legalistic when I stress this, and there is certainly a risk of being holier-than-thou. I ask You to enable me to feed Your sheep what You know they need in ways that You know they will receive it, because I don’t have wisdom to do it. May I be fully submitted to You in every area so that I may be an example to the flock, and together we may be and do all that You desire and intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!