For the Weary

There are few things I do exceptionally well, and sleep is one of them. I usually have very little trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. If I’m stressed out, my first two reactions are to eat and sleep. If it’s past 10:00 at night and I’m bored, I go to sleep (although sometimes I go to bed that early simply because I’m tired). I try to get between six and eight hours of sleep every night. I was that way in college, and was mostly successful at it; I never pulled an all-nighter.

A lot of people say I sleep too much, but really, I don’t. It just seems like I do because most people don’t get enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours. That’s how much sleep our bodies need on a regular basis to be fully rested.

My brother texted me the word of the day last Wednesday. It was “slugabed,” which means “a lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for arising.” He sent me this because he thinks it describes me. The funny thing is, my sister also saw the word of the day that day and thought of me.

This is inaccurate in the sense of what the word literally means because I wake up between 7:00 and 7:30 every week day and no later than 8:00 and 9:00 on weekends, all hours that are considered normal hours to wake up and greet the day. To further prove my point, I ordinarily wake up before my brother on weekdays. It’s also inaccurate because I get up and go somewhere after waking on six out of seven days every average week, which seems the opposite of lazy.

My dear siblings thought of me when they read this word and definition because it reminded them of someone who sleeps a lot, and that is me.

But a long time ago, before electricity lit up our nights and before people lit candles to guide their way to bed, people went to sleep when it got dark and rose with the sun. That would’ve been around 12 hours of sleep in the winter. Our extremely distant ancestors slept for half the day, yet I get grief for sleeping four hours less than they did.

Lights are actually a big part of why we don’t sleep as much as our ancestors did. Light stimulates our brains and sort of makes them feel like it’s still daytime. This is why sleep experts and psychologists recommend lowering lights as a process of going to sleep instead of just turning them off suddenly. It helps the brain calm down, and it makes you sleepy (like what a sunset probably did for our ancestors). The bright lights also enable us to see and continue to do things. They help guide us along. They allow us to stay busy.

That’s really the issue, isn’t it? We don’t have enough time to do the things we want or need, so we neglect the rest our bodies actually do need. Sleep resets and refreshes the body. It gives the rest of our organs a break while the brain remains hard at work. They still function and work and keep us alive, but the brain shifts to a lower gear and works even more than it does while one is awake. But that’s not as important as watching another episode on Netflix or finishing an essay for class or worrying about what’s going to happen at work the next day.

How often do we think or hear or say something along the lines of, “There aren’t enough hours in the day”? There are 24 hours in a day, so if we spent eight hours sleeping and eight hours at work, that would still leave us with eight hours to do whatever we need or want to do. Surely there’s time for God in those eight free hours.

The problem with that is that our lives aren’t arranged as neatly as that. We get a few minutes here and a half hour there, and we’re waiting in line at the store, and we’re stuck in traffic for a few minutes on our way somewhere. Then there’s overtime and emergencies and tons of other things that keep us busy and take away from our peaceful, resting time with God.

Stephen King said in his book On Writing that he reads 70 to 80 books a year. To me, that’s an unreal amount. And he gets all of this done in addition to writing books, columns, and reviews, spending time with his family, exercising, running errands, hobbies, and just sort of dominating.

His secret? He’s always got a book with him in some form or fashion. He reads in the line at the grocery store. He listens to audio books in the car. He turns off his TV a lot and reads instead. He utilizes the spurts of time he’s given, and he makes time by prioritizing. Reading is important to him professionally and personally, so he makes sure he gets it done.

I do think we should make time for God, but it also helps to fill in our gaps with Him. Pray during a lull at work. Pull up your Bible App on your phone (or if you’re like me, pull out an actual pocket-sized Bible) when you’re out to eat and waiting for the food to come if you’re without company or good conversation. Hum worship songs or meditate on scripture on your way to class or work. If you want more time with God, give Him the time you’ve got and then spend valuable time with Him.

The same goes with physical necessities. If you didn’t eat breakfast and you’re hungry, eat on your way or on your break. If you didn’t get much sleep the night before and you’ve got some time and a place to sit or lay at lunch, try a nap or just closing your eyes and resting. God designed our bodies to need food and water and sleep, and without those things, we hurt our bodies and tell God, “No, it’s okay. I don’t really need this after all. I can handle this myself, my own way.”

And it’s worth mentioning that there is a point where too much food or sleep is just as harmful as not getting enough. You’ll be left exhausted with many other problems if you’re not careful, so I advise you not to push the boundaries.

So what’s the connection here between making time for God and getting enough sleep?

Rest.

Ernest Hemingway said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” Sleep can be an escape from our issues, but it is certainly a time when we are largely without control. Our body is on autopilot, and our minds kind of do whatever they want, like exploring our thoughts by dreaming. Everything slows down and we just are. We aren’t doing anything. We’re just resting.

We do the same when we lean on God. Have you ever felt so spiritually strained or drained that you feel yourself falling and found God was there to catch you? When that happens, God doesn’t make you go on, He helps you go on. He’s right there with you, doing what you can’t do and doing what you trust Him to do. You relinquish control, and you just are. You’re just resting in God.

And you know what? It feels great.

I know I’ve used this scripture in the past two weeks, but I think it goes well with the entire Crazy Busy series, particularly this week’s subject matter. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

This is like Jesus is offering a spiritual pillow and blanket. It’s so inviting and peaceful and comforting. Our souls need this like our bodies need eight hours of sleep. Without it, it’s not enough to really, properly keep us going.

There’s an Irish proverb that says, “When God made time, He made enough of it.” That doesn’t always seem true, but it is. God knew what He was doing when He created our concept of time, and if we believe in Him, we have to believe that. How we use our time is up to us. Are we using it to rest up or to burn ourselves out?

By Carrie Prevette

GodAndSleep

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