The contribution of adequate sleep and rest to overall health is often undervalued in the United States. By and large, we are a population that prides itself on productivity. The longer and harder we work, the more we have to show for our accomplishments and the further we think we are on the path to achieving this unattainable “American dream.” But, as we discover oh-so-often when we read God’s Word, sometimes things are not as they seem. (Just take a look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and you’ll see what I mean.) In contrast to the world’s message, Jesus is offering us rest.
Not resting for the purpose of vegging out—but real, true, soul-nourishing rest. It’s during these times of rest that we come home to our true self. When we rest, we become more aware of the present moment, acknowledging the things that we are most thankful for, the beauty in our lives, and the praises that our Jesus deserves.
It’s also a time to examine our conscience and ask ourselves three questions:
1. What do I need to stop doing?
2. What do I need to start doing?
3. What do I need to do in a more intentional way?
If we are constantly moving, constantly busy, constantly checking off our to-do lists, we will be robbed of that time for reflection—a time when we make peace of our lives and discover the person God created us to be. It’s simply a time to ask, What is God up to in my life?
Of course, the ultimate form of rest for humans is sleep. When we don’t get that required sleep, we suffer the consequences. Sleep loss results in the accumulation of a “sleep debt” that must eventually be repaid. Even the loss of one hour of sleep time that accumulates for several days can negatively affect performance, thinking, and mood. Furthermore, a sleep debt accumulated over a matter of days can impair sugar metabolism, disrupt hormone levels, increase blood pressure, decrease immunity, and alter metabolism. This can lead to some big-time consequences, including diabetes, hypertension, and weight gain.
What a beautiful Jesus we worship who is offering us rest... both physical and spiritual. Shame on us for thinking we are capable of functioning without it. The more we embrace the rest He offers, the more dependent we will become on Him and the closer we will feel to Him. As Augustine of Hippo once said, “God is closer to your soul than you are yourself.”
For more information on this topic, check out the book Coming Home to Your True Self by Albert Haase.