8.10.06 So I am minding my own business (and my own busy-ness), wondering why God won’t give me direction for my future. I’m living the Type-A life, up in the wee hours and go ’til you drop late at night life, living to check things off the list that never ends daily. I’m physically run-down, emotionally weakened and I am innocently pondering the events of the day (while I stain bricks until sunset, nonetheless). I was remembering how Hunter couldn’t hear from us, receive from us, needed nothing from us until he could get sleep. Just sleep.
I was on my patio as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains and the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, came to my mind.
1 Kings 17 – 21In partial summary, Elijah was a power-house. He had the favor of God and walked in great authority. God used Elijah to tell King Ahab that a drought so severe was coming there wouldn’t even be dew. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had encouraged the worship of Baal and killed God’s prophets; God was not pleased. Calling down this type of heavenly curse must wear you out because God made Elijah take some r & r, sending him to the brook Cherith where the ravens fed him morning and night and he drank water from the brook.
Elijah got the restoration he needed there and the brook dried up. That was when he got his next instruction: to go to a widow at Zarephath, where he was not only part of a miracle of provision for her (her oil and flour did not run out until the drought was over because of Elijah), but when her son died later, Elijah prayed and God revived him.
Elijah was the guy who set up the public “testing” between Yahweh and Baal with the building of the 2 altars. Ahab had called him a “troubler of Israel,” and Elijah put it back in Ahab’s court by saying that the king was the troubler by allowing the worship of false gods.
God proved Himself like Elijah said He would by showing up in fire on a water-drenched altar while Baal did not show up despite the hours of prayer and self-mutilation of the false god’s prophets.
Our God showed up! He honored his prophet!
But when Elijah became the target of Jezebel’s rage after he ordered the deaths of her priests, he ran in fear. He ran in fatigue. He ran in exhaustion. Elijah ended up under a tree taking a long nap, wishing he could just die. That is tired! I actually get that. That is whole and complete fatigue!
When Elijah was awakened by an angel and told to eat, he found a freshly baked cake and a container of water by is head. He ate it and then went back to sleep. He wasn’t praying for purpose, begging God for his next assignment, ahem. He was just sleeping, then eating divinely prepared meals, then sleeping some more.
The angel woke him up again and told him he needed his strength so he should get up and eat again. THAT food and THAT rest prepared him for the next 40 days of a tough journey. But it wasn’t until after THAT food and THAT rest that he got his next instruction from God and went to a cave where God spoke clearly and decisvely to him.
The study notes in my Bible say of 1 Kings 19.11,12
“The Lord did not reveal Himself to Elijah in the spectacular ways by which He had shown Himself to Moses. To this discouraged, despondent old prophet, God responds in gentleness.”
God did speak to him again, not in a great strong wind, or in an earthquake or even in a fire. God spoke in a “still small voice,” or a “delicate whispering voice.” Had Elijah not been quieted by a time of rest, had he remained in the endless, noisy cycle of boldly prophesying and working hard at it, he may have missed it – the very thing he needed most.
So here I am on my patio staining those ever-loving bricks on a hot summer night, remembering Hunter’s cries, pondering the prophet Elijah and it was becoming clear: I need sleep. I am so tired. I cannot find peace or comfort of any kind until I get sleep. There is nothing anyone can offer me that will help me in any way until I get rest. And, God is not going to give me my next directions until, through rest, I am in a better frame of mind.
B I N G O !
God got through to me.
This new idea, this thought that I neeeeeeeeeeeded sleep began echoing through my mind. I even dreamed about it. I was going to need proof that this was actually true and by the next day I was ready to find out. But for the moment, fireworks were going off in the sky of my heart like I was being granted some divine permission to indulge myself in something that was good for me – that God might still be pleased with me even if I wasn’t running myself ragged. Could this be true? What if I am not on my hyper-vigilant watch at every second – will the world cease to revolve correctly? Sadly, I would soon find, I had been living with somewhat of a God-complex. How embarrassing.
You may be thinking, “Good grief, of course sleep is from God. Of course He wants you to live a rested life. I have no trouble sleeping and not feeling guilt about it.” Wonderful! I wish you’d clued me in (though I probably wouldn’t have understood, anyway).
But some of you, my friends and family, are so tired you can barely read this. You are holding your world together for all you are worth. You are pleasing everyone and getting everything done and you dare not skip a beat or disaster will strike. Rest is most definitely not a state of mind. It is a place in which you can live. Think about these:
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest…be diligent to enter that rest…” Hebrews 4.1,11
“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet,” Proverbs 3.24.
On day 5, I will tell you what I found in black and white right there in the Bible about sleep and how God was trying to make sure I heard it fully, and actually had been for some time.
Hunter needed it, Elijah needed it, and it turns out, I was sorely in need of sleep, too.
Deliver us from from striving & our self-reliant pride, Lord. Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Working for the Kingdom of God does not exempt me from His commands concerning the Sabbath and keeping it holy. It is pride to defy it. Word to all my friends and family in ministry. With love!
So where were we in this little *lack of sleep and rest* story?
I had lost title, position, most of my marbles and any inkling of what God had in mind for my life. I was madly volunteering for anything anyone would let me do, cleaning obsessively, weeding my yard (and maybe even a little of the neighbor’s), helping Rocky & Jovan with their upcoming nuptials and basically over-doing everything I could put my hand to. I was up before the sun and didn’t, or should I say, “refused,” to stop until well after dark. There were no leisurely lunches with my daughters for me, no playing in the pool with the grandkids. I was suddenly “not working,” and all I knew was, if Jesus returns today, He will not find me sleeping or being lazy!
“work…for the night is coming…” – The BIBLE!
During this time, my vision was blurred, I was chronically swollen, my body ached everywhere it is possible to ache, my joints were locked up. I didn’t feel well – ever. This “time off” thing wasn’t working.
Amidst all the activity, I kept praying, asking: what next? I wanted to know how God planned to use me, where I would next get to serve Him. I cried about this a lot, but the heavens remained silent, no to-do list written in the clouds.
I felt miserable and broken and now even God had no use for me. Couldn’t He see that I was a hard worker for the Kingdom? He said He needed laborers for the harvest. Didn’t God understand that I would sacrifice pretty much everything to work for Him? Hadn’t I proven this? I couldn’t comprehend why He wouldn’t put me to work?
It was a very hot summer day in August
8.10.06. The Walgreens sign in town said 104 degrees. My daughter Tara called. She and her husband, Dave, were bringing my adorable almost-2-year-old grandson Hunter to the house for a swim. When they walked in the door a few minutes later, daddy carrying Hunter, the little guy seemed in a bit of a daze. He had fallen asleep in the car and his face was pink from the sun, complete with car-seat sleep-creases.
As they prepared for the swim, his daddy set Hunter down to prepare a water bottle to take outside. Hunter teetered and his body started to tremble. He grabbed the legs of a kitchen stool and started to cry. But it wasn’t like any cry I had ever heard from him. His face was red, agonized; a sorrowful, deep groaning-almost-scream came from within the depths of his little body.
Hunter had our attention immediately: mine, mommy’s and daddy’s. I offered to scoop him up. The cry poured out, he shook his head. No. Do you want a drink? Water? No. Do you want lemonade? No. Do you want some pop? No. Do you want mommy? Do you want daddy? All we wanted in that split-second was to bring Hunter comfort, but nothing we were offering seemed to fill the bill. We could not comfort him. He was troubled beyond any simple outside fix. Hunter could not be comforted.
I know I am the nonna and everything, but Hunter, even at 20 months, was an unusually good-natured toddler. There weren’t random meltdowns for no reason. He wasn’t throwing a fit; he wasn’t trying to get his way.
As it happened, they’d just had a really busy, on-the-go day and he’d missed his usual nap time. They figured a refreshing swim and then a nice late-afternoon nap would be the ticket. Unfortunately, he fell asleep in the car those few minutes before and he was past the point of exhaustion – his trembling body a true sign of that. He needed rest right now, more specifically sleep. Pure and simple – sleep was the answer. Until that happened, there was nothing else that could happen.
God was about to show me some things concerning sleep…
That evening as the sun was setting and I was out on the patio staining some bricks (yes, staining bricks…I know, I’m rolling my eyes now, too), I was remembering Hunter’s gut-wrenching and pathetic cries and how badly he was needing that nap. I thought about how he could not be soothed because he was so tired and that nothing I had offered would or even could comfort him.
Immediately, out of the blue, I began to remember the story of Elijah. This was a power-man out of the Old Testament if ever there was one. He was bold and walked in the favor of God raising the dead and declaring miracles and ticking off government leaders by saying what God told him to say. God backed him with so much authority that he could even change the weather. But as I was sweating away staining my bricks and pondering Hunter’s gut-wrenching cry earlier in the day, God reminded me that even Elijah needed a good, long restorative nap.
More on Elijah later…
Do you need permission to rest and sleep in? I give you mine. I give you God’s. Consider whether this constant state of activity in which you are living is where you have placed your confidence? Are you fully self-sufficient and is it the healthiest place? Is it a place of pride for you? Because, fair warning: God resists the proud. He gives grace (and naps) to the humble, though. So – think it through carefully…
Be blessed and be at rest today! Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: “...ask..where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls...” Jeremiah 6.16 NKJV