As my hunger for God increases, I find it difficult to determine how much sleep I need to function. I wonder how those whom we invite to our church programs, muster up enough energy to keep on going from one program to the next, honoring invitations to proclaim God’s Word. They would often say that they were just coming from one program or that they would be attending a vigil after our own program and I would just wonder if they ever got sleep. Some of these people have families and other things they do to earn a living so how do they cope? Do they sleep? I mean, I know they sleep but do they have ENOUGH sleep? Do they wake up tired each time or do they have a deep, true rest?
What is Rest?
What is true rest, anyways? Isn’t it what we all want? As is my default, my compass turned to Scripture and what it said about all this rest stuff. Rest is translated as “nuach” in Hebrew and “katapausis” in Greek. It entails the state of being quiet; of settling down after labour; of being in repose.
This is different from the metaphorically usage of a heavenly blessedness in which God dwells. This concept of “rest” is often seen as a resting place of promise as seen in Hebrews 3:11 where God vowed that the stubborn Israelites would “never enter my rest.” As I contemplated further, however, I began to wonder whether this “rest of God” was actually different in essence to “nuach” or “katapausis.”
Sabbath As Rest
Christians and non-Christians alike are familiar with the story of creation in Genesis 2:2-3 where God “rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done.” We are supposed to do same as demanded of us in Exodus 23:12 that “for six days you shall work but on the seventh, you shall rest.” which was intended to be for our own good. This is seen in Jesus’ words in Mark 2:27 where he states that “the Sabbath was made for man.” So, we know that God made the Sabbath for us to rest. We also know that Jesus understood the need for rest as seen in Mark 6:31-32 where He states “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.”
Rest, rest, rest. We need it but can we have enough if we are truly to be effective workers in God’s kingdom? Coming to think of it – how many hours of sleep did the disciples have? How many hours of sleep did St. Paul have? I mean, by my analyses, those who are invited to lead crusades or other church programs in different parishes across the state, country or even continents, don’t have more than 4 hours sleep each day! How can they function on such? 1 Cor 6:13 shows that God does not wish to destroy the body and knows that the body He created needs to be sustained. Surely, lack of sleep harms the body, doesn’t it? Isn’t this why He created the Sabbath?
What Science Says
Science tells us that we need to sleep for a certain number of hours each day – 8 hours to be precise! These people do not have this so how come these people of God seem to function just fine with 4 hours of sleep? Psalm 127:2 is instructive. It says that only God can give rest and He gives rest to His loved ones. Truly, can you sleep if you have no inner peace? Isn’t that why there is a rise in the usage of sleeping pills and in insomnia in our world today? There is an absence of inner peace that only God can give. Psalm 4:9 stresses this by saying “I lie down in peace, for you alone, O Yahweh, make me feel safe and secure.”
So, do you NEED 8 hours of sleep? As I tried to wrap my head around this, I was led to Psalm 23:2-3 where King David acknowledges that it is God who makes him to lie down in green pastures, leads him beside the still waters and who restores his soul. This stillness and this repose is definitely the translated meaning of “nuach” which means to rest. The purpose of sleep is to rest but if you realize that God’s Presence is the actual rest we need, then the hours of sleep needed seem inconsequential. David treasured God’s Presence above all things and would always seek it. I wonder how many hours of sleep King David actually needed and got.
God’s Presence is rest. God’s Presence is true rest. Isn’t it interesting to note that those in the monasteries only have 4-5 hours of sleep each day and function just fine? Contrary to the impression that they simply pray all day on their knees, they actually undertake serious manual work, without the comfort to which others would be accustomed. So, why is it that they don’t need 8 hours of sleep? Well, consider this – research has shown that just thirty minutes of deep meditation is the equivalent of two hours of sleeping. Deep meditation is part of their daily life by which they connect to God’s Presence. This is true rest.
The purpose of sleep is to rest. As we hunger more for God and work for His Kingdom, we must seek for His Presence and seek to operate within His Presence. Now, I am not saying that those who get more than 4 hours of sleep, are not hungry for God or are not spiritually fruitful. I am simply saying that when you put God as your focus, sleep becomes secondary. When you have spiritual depth, your body does not need to rest as much. In short, the little sleep you get is deep enough and of good quality. There is a reduced need for sleep. It is not a deprivation because God’s Presence is truly all you need.
Two scriptures come to mind. The first is in Isaiah 40:31 where God assures us that those who hope in Yahweh “will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.” The second scripture is in Exodus 33:14 where God states: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
May we constantly abide in God’s Presence and stay connected to God who alone renews our strength and gives TRUE REST to those He loves. May we be counted as one of those whom God loves and enter His rest in this world and the next. In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen