The Lord and Giver of Rest
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
- Psalm 127:2
We all have seasons in life where we stretch the limits of the day. We set our alarm clocks aggressively and resist the urge to smash the “Snooze” button. We burn the midnight oil. We push and press because we believe that a little more time and a little more effort can get us what we need.
Today’s passage talks about toiling for food and calls to mind a flash of a scene of harvesttime. Farmers and field hands hustling up and down the rows, trying to bring everything in in time, before the bugs and blight take the produce. Our seasons of restless sprint-work offer nothing new to the experience of work on a global scale.
What might be new is the way we feel the pressure to overwork continuously. When you can work anywhere, you can work everywhere. When your work schedule can flex, it can consume your entire calendar. There’s almost always more work to do than can ever be done.
The mystery in today’s passage is that the Lord is the giver of sleep; not your employers or social security or your IRA. Sleep is the antithesis of anxious toil. Sleep is a privilege. Not everyone gets to experience sleep. We all have seasons of sleeplessness. But sleep, peace, deep soul rest … these aren’t things that must be earned.
Lauren Winner, in her book Mudhouse Sabbath, points out that the ancient Jewish day of rest began at night (i.e. not in the morning). Rest starts with sleep. It starts with handing off responsibility for your provision to the one who provides abundantly. And it isn’t easy.
Try this exercise today:
Set aside five minutes and find a relaxing space (a quiet room, a comfy chair or couch). Put a paper and pen next to you. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Try to count 100 breaths (this can be very difficult, we know). When you feel yourself getting distracted by an item on your “To Do” list or a conversation you need to have, open your eyes and make a note on the paper, then go back to breathing. When the five minutes is up (or however long you want to pursue the exercise), pray a prayer like this
Thank you Jesus for giving me the breath of life. You know everything that keeps me from resting in you. I offer all of it – including this list – to you. Help me to do what must be done and to fully receive your gift of rest when you offer it to me. Amen.