The God Who Sleeps


A few days ago those of us who reside in Michigan had one of those classic, late fall, cold, cloudy, rainy days. In other words, it was a perfect day for a nap. Fortunately it was also the weekend so I took advantage and executed a flawless, monster nap. napping1If you have never experienced an impassioned snooze on a rainy, cold, Michigan, mid-November, Sunday afternoon, I highly recommend it. Naps…one of the few, free, simple pleasures of life.

I had a providential moment as I was sipping on my coffee, praying and reading my Bible in the early hours of the morning today. I love encountering scriptures that challenge our thinking about who God is…or shall I say, how He reveals Himself to us. I came upon a verse that momentarily had me scratching my head in confusion regarding God and naps…

Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not reject us forever.  Psalm 44:23 NASB

It appears that the Psalmist is attempting to get a reaction…from God…and us. Clearly the God of all creation does not sleep? Not according to the prophet Isaiah…

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. Isaiah 40:28 NASB

If the Lord of Heaven and Earth does not sleep, then what is the intention of the Psalmist’s complaint? Why is the writer so frustrated that he would accuse the Lord of being absent in the face of his great concern? Are there any other instances in the Bible when someone was frustrated at the Lord’s apparent apathy towards their plight?

Leaving the crowd, they took Him (Jesus) along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;…”         Mark 4:36-38a NASB

Jesus is asleep. The Son of God is enjoying a well-deserved nap at a very inopportune time…or so said His disciples…

“and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”        Mark 4:38b NASB

Do You not care? Quite an indictment to level at Jesus, although understandable given the gravity of the situation at hand. If I was about to drown and the man with the life preserver 1856135561-tobuscus-do-you-even-carewas using it as a pillow, I might question the level of his concern. As I was considering the Psalmist’s question and the disciple’s desperate plea I began to understand the connection between these two writers, and myself. The Psalmist and the Disciples were asking the same question. Their question had nothing to do with literal sleep and more to do with the Lord’s apparent ambivalence towards their circumstances. And this is where you and I enter the story…

Have you ever dared to echo those words? “Lord, do You not care?”  I have. Maybe I should be ashamed of that admission but I have good company among the disciples and the psalmist who both made the same inquiry. Oh, I know the proper theological answer to that question.  Of course He cares…He died on the cross for me.  But why doesn’t that knowledge always help? Why do I still struggle, at times, in my pain, to believe He is present, everywhere….loving…interested…actively caring?

Have you ever struggled to believe that God was as concerned with the matters of your life as you are? Have you ever questioned if God is really good, all the time? And if He is, why does it seem like He is asleep while the proverbial house is burning down? Why are so many still in pain? Why doesn’t any of the suffering make sense? When will this hardship end? Why does the answer I so desperately seek allude me? Or fill in the blank here of a hundred questions born out of suffering, hardship…pain…intense pain that isn’t easily resolved.


Sadly, such honest, difficult questions are often considered too raw for discussion in the church. Many times those who are seeking a compassionate friend receive trite, well-intentioned but misguided theological platitudes at best, or insensitive judgement at worst (see the book of Job). As a result, many hurting folks suffer silently and alone. People tend to like their God more predictable…more controllable…more definable…so they don’t know how to respond to the unanswerable questions…and they certainly don’t dare ask…”God are you asleep?”…”God do you care?” But apparently the Lord doesn’t have an issue with such honest inquiry…

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.                                                           Mark 4:39 NIV

It appears the Sleeping Giant does care and has more to say than we may think…

go-to-sleep-in-peace-god-is-awakeNext post…”Poke the Sleeping Giant”