Too Stressed to Rest?
When I volunteered to write a post on rest for this week’s theme, Taking Care of You, I was not unaware of the irony. The bags under my eyes have bags of their own. I daydream about fuzzy blankets and my Comfort Select mattress. Then when I do lie down, I can’t turn my brain off.
My knee-jerk response to that question is that I don’t allow myself to be up all night; I simply can’t help it. We North Americans seem to value busyness, and like everybody else, I juggle family, work, church, school, and other responsibilities. Demands on my time limit my rest. The other day I read Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. To which I balked, be still? I have ten things to do before this day ends! The house is a mess and I don’t have time to be still. Ugh.
Some of us are kept awake because of medical or other issues beyond our control (sleep apnea, pain, or outside noise). But many times, well… I don’t know about you, but it isn’t caffeine which keeps me up when I finally do crawl into bed. It’s anxiety. How will we afford two kids in braces? How do I fix my manuscript? What am I going to do about X, Y, and Z?
Are we too busy or anxious to sleep? Is it possible that in clinging to my worries, I’m not trusting God to handle the issues of my life?
The answer for me is yes. And I’ve learned the hard way that living without sufficient rest doesn’t just harm our bodies. It also denies a spiritual reality.
I was astonished to learn that the word “Sabbath” has no mention of holiness in its definition. The Hebrew term is more akin to what we call “wasting time.”
Wasting time. Letting things go. Being utterly nonproductive, earning no cash, writing no novels, solving no problems. Allowing God to take charge for a little while. Kicking back or falling asleep in peace because we trust that He works while we rest, and when we awaken, it’s to a day God planned which is already in progress.
Relinquishing control for a good night’s sleep can require a strong sense of security and trust in God, but we have a God who is ready, able, and willing to shoulder our burdens. He cares about the problems with my finances, my writing, and my packed schedule. He’ll be there through the illnesses and grief, the struggles big and small. He brought the world into being, and He can handle my problems, too, while I let go and trust Him.
David wrote, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Ps. 3:5), and “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8). When we can rest like that, secure in God’s sustaining care and protection, it becomes a rest that refreshes us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re then better equipped to handle problems, heal, and do God’s work.
My prayer for all of us tonight comes from Philippians 4:6-7. As we don our pajamas and climb into bed (perhaps a wee bit earlier than usual), may we all “…not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”