“It’s okay to take time to sleep and to rest – to let yourself be.”
I wish I could say these words came from my own mouth the other day, but they didn’t. They came from my helpmate, my husband, who so often sees things in a different light than me and helps steady and calm me.
I had been lamenting to him that I wanted to get up early in the morning to have time with the Lord before the day began, but my body was exhausted. Exhausted from the change of moving to a new city, being newly married, being the new person…all the newness.
At times all I want to do is sleep. Sleep until everything feels right and good and normal. But I know that I can easily make sleep into my escape; instead of retreating to the Word and to prayer, or to sharing the burdens of my heart with my husband, I can succumb to the numbness of sleep.
So I flip to the opposite: I want to restrict my sleep, to make myself get up early, to be disciplined, to make sure that I don’t create sleep into my sole retreat.
But then I remember:
He gives to His beloved sleep
And I hear this truth echoed in the voice of my husband. His gentle reminder that it’s okay to rest, to sleep, to acknowledge you are tired. For in that acknowledgement, the realization and admitting of the exhaustion that is at times overwhelming, I am reminded of my need for my Father.
I desperately need Him, and I am in desperate need of His rest. The kind of rest when I lie down and whisper, Father, I feel like it’s too much. I can’t do this. I want to do more for You, to be more for You, but I just feel like I can’t right now.
And I hear echoes of Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 19:
It is enough; now, O LORD; take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.
After this, Elijah lies down and sleeps. We are not told how long his slumber lasts, but we know how the Lord responds, and what a sweet response it is. The Father does not berate him, does not come and rebuke his feelings or tell him he should be feeling something else. Instead, the Lord sends an angel, who comes and touches Elijah and provides food for him.
When the angel wakes him, he tells him to get up and eat, and after that what does Elijah do? He lies down and sleeps again. The angel wakes Elijah a second time, and his latter part of his words speak such peace to my heart:
Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you
Oh, how comforting these words: ‘the journey is too great for you.’
Sometimes the journey is indeed too great for me. It is too much for my heart, soul, and mind to hold, and so my body responds by telling me that I need to sleep.
Should I stay asleep for days and days? No, the Lord does not let Elijah sleep and continue in his depression. He comforts him, wakes him, provides him food, instructs him to eat, lets him sleep again, and then the process repeats.
So this winter season, as the clouds roll in and the gray of the cold so often brings a chill to our bones and weariness to our hearts, let us be honest as we voice our weariness to the Lord.
Let us be vulnerable, unafraid to speak our tiredness, and then allow Him to grant us sleep and His rest. But, then, let us allow Him to wake us, let us eat the food He provides for us, let us hear Him whisper that the journey is too much for us. And finally, let us remember that it is in His sustenance that we find the strength to continue on.
Who has the Lord placed in your life to remind you that it is okay to take time to sleep? How have you responded to this reminder? How are you learning to lean on Him for strength in the journey, even the strength to allow yourself to rest and sleep?
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