Sleep and Children

In Perspective on December 14, 2011 by The Spillover

Loved this post from Erik Raymond;  of course it resonated with me because I’m the father of a 2-1/2-year-old and a 5-month-old, but there are great applications for everyone, even those without young children:

Last night my wife and I were up most of the night. Our little boy, 6 months, is learning to go to sleep on his own.

As I walked about trying to get this little guy to sleep I was struck by the profound lessons that I can learn.

For one, a baby is weak, immature, easily upset, and unable to govern himself. He can’t do what he wants to do. He wants to sleep but he can’t. It reminded me of myself as a Christian. I am needy and dependent and often worn down. Furthermore, new Christians, just like new babies, are often thrown into quite a fit when they don’t get what they think they want. There is a time for mature believers to come alongside them with loving patience and care, reminding and modeling Christlike love.

As I thought on these things I found myself encoruaged and motivated to lovingly serve my son.

In this process I was again drawn to the familiar 127th Psalm. As I chewed on this verse, in the middle of the night, I had to chuckle at the irony of God in this Psalm.

If you have babies at home or have recently had the experience of newborns, you know exactly where I am going. The Psalmist pairs sleep and children together in a song for believers to sing about the blessings of God.

Did you catch that? Sleep and children are paired up here like Peanut Butter and Jelly.

I don’t think this is an accident. Believers should sing about the blessings of both sleep and children as they get up in the middle of the night or sleep through the night. This is a good passage to remind new parents of as they spend time with their kids ‘after hours.’

Walking through it proves to be very helpful and full of application for parents and non-parents alike.


In the first two verses of the Psalm, the writer speaks of the sleep that God grants to his children and then in verses 3-5 he exults in the blessed gift of children.

I don’t know about you but it is not often that I feel like I am engaging in the blessed stewardship of grace when I go to sleep. Sometimes I feel guilty about going to bed on account of the amount of items that seem to be eternally etched on my ‘to-do’ list. However, the 127th Psalm serves as a providential rebuke and reminder to  those of us who have the tendency to let life ‘live us’ rather than us live life.

Notice what verse 2 says, “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.” Three words leap off the page to me in that verse: vain, anxious, and he gives.

Within the context God is kicking out our faulty dependence upon ourselves calling a workman’s labor “vanity” apart from the work of God. So I stand rebuked if I am tirelessly laboring–if I am depending upon my own strength, ability, wisdom and creativity to accomplish my work. What’s even worse in this consumption of anxiety bread (v.2) I find myself marginalizing God’s sovereign wisdom and work in my life. This can be exemplified clearly in the avoidance of or inability to enjoy a good sleep.

Men seem to be particularly susceptible to this, though I am sure that women are as well. It is noble and even God-honoring for men to work hard and provide for their families. However, there is nothing God-honoring about marginalizing the all-wise God through self-dependence. It is therefore biblical to work hard. This hard work should be done in a posture of prayer, dependence and thanksgiving. There is never a priority that should eclipse this priority. And part of dependence and thanksgiving is the worshipful reception and enjoyment of a good sleep.


In the second half of the verse the Psalmist proclaims the source of children. He says clearly that they are “from the LORD” (v.3). This mere fact should cause the illumined heart to leap and praise God.

Furthermore we read that they are a “gift” and a “reward.” We need to think of our children (and all children) as gifts from God. God has given these little bundles of grace to you. They are from him.

Do you look at your children like this?

Hold them today, hug them, kiss them, and thank God for them. They are his and he has given them to you. What more of a blessing could God give to you as parents than to stamp his image upon people and give them to you as a stewardship to love, enjoy, and teach them of him? What a blessing!

I am also convicted to pray more about the horrific number of abortions that occur in this country even daily. We need to, in light of a passage like this, pray that God would turn men’s hearts to begin to value the life that he so graciously gives.


In conclusion I just want to connect the obvious dots here. Believers depend upon God and enjoy sleep, to do otherwise is to act like a pagan, it is to act like God is not sovereign, in control and the giver of sleep to his beloved. Furthermore, to not esteem and enjoy children for the gift that they really are is to act like an unbeliever. Believers are to be people who think rightly about God and so therefore act rightly. This thinking and acting extends from the office to the bedroom to the nursery. God is to be thanked and praised for his manifold blessings.

One Response to “Sleep and Children”

  1. what excellent perspective, especially when it is so natural for us to default to irritation when tending to children in the wee hours.

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