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How to Sleep Like Jesus

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I worked as an overnight security guard to help pay for college. I’d take classes during the day and watch the dormitory doors for trouble at night. My shift would begin around 9pm and end at 7am. I’d try to catch 1 to 2 hours of sleep before classes started for the day, and then repeat the cycle. That was my life for 2 years. I replaced sleep with an elixir of vault energy drink mixed with a few 5-Hour Energies and prideful will power. In that time, I gained 30 pounds, got sicker than I’d ever been, hallucinated too many times and performed poorer than I ever had in school. There were many contributing issues, but the glaring issue was a lack of sleep.

I am not alone. Countless people try to replace sleep with caffeine in attempt to make a dent in their endless task lists. Others lay awake at night, consumed by all the things that lead to worry. We all feel the effects. For me, the weight gain, illnesses and poor grades are reminders of my fragility and weakness — and evidence of God’s grace. God made us with limitations, He made us to need sleep, and He put in our bodies systems that would point us to our need for Him. All of which are displays of His grace.

On average, we spend about one third of our lives asleep, and we must in order to function. Sleep improves our memory, aids creativity, lowers stress, helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces inflammation and fights off depression. Being well rested is vital to our existence, and God designed us that way.

But questions arise: How much should we sleep in light of all of God’s commands? What about all the other things He has called us to do? If it can be hard to fall asleep, did God tell us how to sleep?

Indeed, God has a good deal to say about sleep. Even though He doesn’t need it, He made it, and He understands it. Furthermore, Jesus, who is God, probably spent a third of his 33 years on Earth asleep. While he didn’t talk much about it, we can learn much about sleep from how Jesus slept.

Countless people try to replace sleep with caffeine in attempt to make a dent in their endless task lists.

Work Hard, Sleep Well

The one time we find Jesus sleeping in Scripture is on a boat.[1] He and His disciples were seeking a rest from the crowds and crossing a lake by boat. Jesus found a cushion in the stern, and he was probably weary from teaching all day. He took this opportunity to get alone and get some sleep.

We can draw our first insight into how to sleep like Jesus here: He sleeps after working hard. We see this pattern in the creation days, where God “rests” on the seventh from His work seeing that it was good. Of course, He was still sustaining all His creation, but He rested from His creating work.

Many of us are working multiple jobs, and working on multiple projects, and we have difficulty finding time to sleep. However, others are trying to go to sleep without having put in enough work for the day. Many get into bed after lazing around all day and find themselves tossing and unable to sleep. Jesus never went to sleep without having done all that He was supposed to do that day. We are not God, we will leave tasks undone, and there is much grace. However, we ought to endeavor to head to bed worn out from our work to God’s glory.

The story doesn’t end there though. Jesus isn’t merely an opportunistic sleeper who rests after working hard, as we all should. He is also a deep sleeper!

A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.

Jesus is sleeping through a storm so bad that the boat was filling with water, and the waves were breaking apart the boat. To Jesus the rocking waves were about as frightening as the sway of a rocking chair. He continued to sleep unencumbered and unbothered. His disciples on the other hand were having a significantly different experience.

They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’

“Have you still no faith?”

I don’t want to say that Jesus was being sarcastic, but consider all the disciples had seen and heard from God in the flesh. They’d seen miracles, heard insightful parables and preaching, and spent days walking beside the Savior of the world, yet they still worried about a storm.

I don’t want to fault the disciples; they are no different than us. We’ve been saved from Hell’s torment, from slavery to sin, from the power of the Devil, yet we doubt. We’ve been transferred from darkness to light, we’ve been made new in Christ, we’ve been adopted into the love, care and protection of the One who made all things, yet we dare to lay awake at night and worry about a pending storm.

Jesus reminds us while asleep during the storm that there is no storm big enough to worry about. Whatever your storm, be it a sick child, an undiagnosed illness, financial difficulties, a cloudy future or a tough decision, God has ordained it, and God can say “Peace be still.” Our duty is to trust Him, to have faith, and rest easy in the hands of the King of all Kings.

Work unto the Lord, and sleep deep and sure like Jesus.

[1] Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25

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Topher Thomas

Topher is an Earth and Environmental Science Teacher in Durham, NC. He is a graduate of Southeastern with an M.A. in Christian Education with Biblical Counseling. He is married to Abigail, and father to Violet and Margot.

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