The Best Sleep You'll Ever Have

One of the joys of getting older is discovering that there are seasons of life where you just don’t get good sleep. Sometimes there are positive reasons for this (e.g., the birth of a child), while at other times there is seemingly no reason at all (e.g., “Why am I awake at 3AM?!”). Sometimes though, trials and difficulties deprive us of sleep. While few can claim they have faced a situation like Job did, many of us have had nights like he had because of situations beyond our power: “When I lie down, I say, 'When shall I arise, And the night be ended?' For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn” (Job 7:4).

If ever a man faced a truly difficult trial that left him powerless, it was Peter when he faced the events recorded in Acts 12. Herod Agrippa had “stretched out his hand to harass some from the church,” and, taking it a step further, “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2-3). Seeing “that it pleased the Jews,” he “put [Peter] in prison” with the intention of trying and likely killing him “after Passover” (Acts 12:4).

We could easily forgive Peter if the inspired pen described him the night before his trial as being awake in fervent prayer and with deep concern for his life. Yet, the record shows the exact opposite: “Peter was sleeping.” This is a pretty considerable feat even without the next day’s trial, as he was “bound with two chains between two soldiers,” which couldn’t have been comfortable (Acts 12:6). Evidently, he was so soundly asleep in fact that neither an angel’s appearance nor the subsequent light that “shone in the prison” woke him up. To make that happen, the angel had to strike “Peter on the side” and literally pull him up (Acts 12:7).

One might argue, “Well, maybe he was sleeping so soundly because he knew that he would be rescued.” Three things revealed in the text argue against this. One, as we already mentioned, James, Peter’s fellow apostle, had just been killed (Acts 12:2). Two, Peter was not dressed or wearing his shoes, demonstrating that he was not prepared for the jailbreak (Acts 12:8). Three, he didn’t believe “what was done by the angel was real” until they were totally out of the prison, thinking instead “he was seeing a vision” (Acts 12:9-11).

How was it that Peter was able to sleep so soundly the night before his likely death? When I read Acts 12, I am reminded of when Peter and the other disciples of Jesus were with Him on the Sea of Galilee and “a great windstorm arose,” threatening to sink the ship (Mark 4:37). The disciples were terrified, but Jesus was “asleep on a pillow.” While the disciples were shocked to find him sleeping, they soon realized that He could do so because, as He demonstrated, “even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41). I’d suggest that Peter was sleeping so soundly the night before His trial because he had finally learned to trust in the power of the One he followed.

Are you having trouble sleeping lately? If you’re a Christian and it’s because of fear over some situation that is beyond your power, please remember, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). That power “works in us,” and is doubtlessly working right now to carry you through this trial in ways “above all that” you might be able to “ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Neither this trial nor any to come will ever be able to separate you from the powerful Lord who loves you if you commit yourself to Him as Peter did on the eve of his trial (cf. Romans 8:35-39). If you’re not a Christian, it’s time to “awake out of sleep” and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:11-14) so that you can know His power and His peace.  

May you be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:11). And may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding […] guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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