All human beings need sleep. Though we might pretend otherwise, our brains and bodies demand rest. Why do we so often resist sleep?
Sleep reveals our vulnerability. The unsettling truth is that we cannot, in fact, do it all. During those long (or short) hours of unconsciousness, we are not productive. We cannot control events or protect ourselves from danger. We cannot solve problems or meet deadlines. While we sleep, the dirty dishes sit in the sink, the patient goes untreated, and the emails go unread. Sleep reminds us of our limitations.
But as the Psalmist reminds us, our God does not rest.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.”
We must surrender to rest. But while we sleep, God is at work. He steadies the hands of the night shift nurse. He comforts the mother with a fussy baby. He speaks to the friars at evening prayer. God transforms our hearts as we slumber (Psalm 16:7) and defends us from enemy attacks. God moves in the stillness of the night.
We sleep to recover from the day before and to prepare ourselves for the day ahead. When we wake, we decide where to direct our gaze. We can open our eyes to the marvelous work of God around us, or we can narrow our focus on our own tasks and abilities.
When we look inward, we are crushed by a never-ending to-do list. It is tempting to stay up all night to get ahead on the next task. How can we stop to rest? It is up to us to save the world. Our self-reliance blinds us.
When we gaze outward, however, we glimpse God at work. We watch our amazing health navigators serve small mountain towns. We see surgery teams work together to heal and provide hope. We witness the faith of our patients, men, and women who rely on God for their every need. We behold the power of the Holy Spirit knitting Guatemalan and American volunteers together to advance the kingdom of God. When we gaze outward, we view life as an invitation to participate in the greater story.
As sure as the sunrise over Agua, Acatenango, and Fuego volcanoes, God is at work around us. And he invites us to participate in his kingdom-building. Peter reminds us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). Our service to others is a tangible sign of God’s grace in the world, but it is not God’s only grace. We can love without the pressure to fix all brokenness. We can rest knowing that our God never sleeps.
When we awaken, may we see God’s power at work and freely participate in building his kingdom. On earth as it is in heaven.
Lord, Help us to rest and awaken each new day. In rest, may we find humility. As we awaken, may our eyes be opened to your presence and power around us.