Learning to Rest

Twenty years ago … I was exhausted. Two bulging disks made standing and walking a painful, almost unmanageable chore. The same malady caused my sleep to be sporadic and fitful. The pain relievers that gave me some relief added to my drowsiness. I was carrying a heavy workload during the week, teaching Sunday School at one church, jumping in my car and driving to another to preach. I was just beat. Every time I sat down … even at my office desk … I fell asleep.

I don’t know how many times I woke up from prayer. I would sit down and begin to pray and quickly pass out. Waking chagrined, I would wonder how many people had passed my office door and caught me napping. I also felt embarrassed that I had fallen asleep in the middle of my audience with the King. “Dear Heavenly Fath … zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.”

Then I noticed something. I was waking up refreshed. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I can’t describe how it came to me, but I suddenly knew God wasn’t bothered by me resting in His presence. In fact, the need for physical rest was part of how He created me. That inescapable need for bodily rest pointed to a deeper need, a deeper reality. I started learning the lesson of rest.

Here are four Psalms that point to what exhaustion taught me … 

  • I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. 4:8
  • He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 91:1
  • He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 121:3-4
  • In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for He grants sleep to those He loves. 127:2

You can only stay awake and in charge for so long before your body shuts you down and puts you in the helpless state of slumber. The psalmists consistently connected human rest with spiritual dependence. Basically, I can go to sleep … because God doesn’t.

I’ve acknowledged that there are physical conditions that can rob us of rest. I’m certainly not advocating laziness. Important deadlines sometimes still require diligent wakefulness. Prayer also deserved focus … I shake off the drowsiness, get up and walk, because talking out my problems with my Heavenly Father is the only thing that will bring true rest. But when I need a nap, I pray, “You’ve got this Father” and I take a nap. When its time to sleep, I say, “I can’t anymore … but You can, and You will” and I go to sleep.

One of the command/promises of Jesus goes like this … “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 Did He mean it? Are His words trustworthy or not? Why don’t you sleep on that 😊