Counting Sheep

by Joanna Pierce on October 24, 2018

Sleep and I have been going through a rough patch lately. I don’t know what I might have said to make it feel unwanted, but sleep has not been my close, constant companion these last few months.

In our information age where everyone seems to be an “expert” on everything, I’ve been desperate enough to seek out anyone for their remedy for my sleep deprivation issue. When I say I’ve tried everything to fall asleep and to stay sleep, I mean it. I’ve even tried counting sheep.

If I met a younger version of myself, she would look at me with a horrified bewilderment that I’ve succumb to such infantile nonsense. As a child, I thought counting sheep to drift into dreamland was the dumbest thing a person could do.

First, you’d have to imagine sheep—now there’s a task in itself. I’d get lost in the never-ending land of imagination determining the sheep’s breed, wool color, collar or no collar, bell or no bell, large or small, if it was jumping a fence (as I’d always seen in cartoons), and then figure out the exact duration one must count sheep to actually fall asleep. Also, I never could conceive if a rhythm was involved, or if you were to count aloud or silently in your head…

By the time anyone figured out the mechanics of counting sheep, you’d be more awake than asleep. And, as for me, lying awake in bed at night remembering all of this, definitely didn’t redirect me back to any state of unconsciousness. I laughed at my reverie, joking with God if He counted sheep.

And, then I remembered—He does.

How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray (Matthew 18:12–13, KJV).

God’s not counting sheep because He’s trying to get some shut-eye. He’s counting sheep because He’s making sure none of us—yes, we’re sheep—get lost. Unlike me, our Good Shepherd knows just how many sheep He actually has. This is how He knows when one of us goes missing.

How does He know? Well, other than the fact that God knows all things, He thinks about and observes similar characteristics of His sheep that I wondered about as a small child whist trying (or preparing) to count sheep. For every sheep that God’s created, He knows their breed (Psalms 103:14), their wool color/volume (Luke 12:7), actions (Isaiah 66:18), and every other small detail.

When a sheep that matches our description doesn’t show up for roll call, God’s going to find us. He’s not laying down to sleep, but He laid down His life for us (John 10:11). He numbers us so He can save us. And, when He finds us, He will gather us up and carry us home to be counted once again (Isaiah 40:11).

If you find yourself counting sheep to catch a few much-needed winks, just remember you’re not alone. We serve a God who never sleeps (Psalms 121:4), but still counts His sheep.