Thursday, February 12, 2015

Counting Sheep, Unable to Sleep, Exhaustion, and True Rest

"Sleep, I already said, is a necessity.  But it is also a relinquishment.  It is self-abandonment: of control, of power, of consciousness, of identity.  We direct nothing in our sleep.  We master nothing.  We lose ourselves and are carried like children or prisoners into a netherworld alternately grotesque and idyllic, canivalesque and elysian.  In sleep we become infants again: utterly vulnerable, completely defenseless, totally dependent.  Out of control.  [...]

So sleep, besides being a necessity, is also an act of faith.  'O Lord, how many are my foes!  /  How many rise up against me!'  David begins Psalm 3.  But then he declares: 'I lie down and sleep;  /  I wake again because the Lord sustains me.'  Or the next psalm: 'I will lie down and sleep in peace,  /  for you alone, O Lord,  /  make me dwell in safety' (Ps 4:8).  Every time we sleep we place ourselves again in this position of vulnerability, of defenselessness of dependency.  We enter again this infant like unguardedness.  And we do this well only under one of two conditions: utter exhaustion, where we can't help ourselves, or complete confidence, where we stop trying to help ourselves.  Then we sleep because we know from whence our help comes.  We sleep because we know in whom we have believed and are confident that he is able to keep that which we have entrusted to him.  We give ourselves, regardless of our unfinished business into God's care  We sleep simply because we believe God will look after us.

It's the same with Sabbath rest.  Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills us, depends on the second condition, on complete confidence and trust.  And confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that
God is good 
God is sovereign.

There's no rest for those who don't believe that.  If God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called to his purposes, you can relax.  If he doesn't, start worrying.  

If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off.  If he can't, get busy.  Either God's always at work, watching the city, building the house, or you need to try harder.  Either God is in control, or it all depends on you."

-Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath 


Lord Jesus, thank you that true rest is found in you alone.  Thank you that we can rest because you are good and sovereign.  The truth is, we were once incessantly enslaved to sin and the world around us, but because of your death and resurrection, Jesus, we can rest.  We can rest in knowing that all our striving, all our fears, all our insecurities, all our anxieties can be given fully and completely to you.  Thank you for being who you are.  You don't tell us to trust you because you will give us precisely what we want but to trust you because of who you are.  Thank you that your character has been revealed most clearly to us in the gospel -- in the fact that while we were still sinners and wanted nothing to do with you whatsoever, you created a way for us to be made right with you and enjoy you forever through giving up with life of your precious and perfect son Jesus.  Thank you, Father, for loving us so much that we can surrender every detail of our lives before you, knowing that surely if you spared your only son for us, won't you also give us everything we could ever need?

I confess so often I finally rest out of utter exhaustion and not deep delight in a Lord who has everything under control.  I run and play and work myself into the ground, unwilling to admit my limitations and neediness.  But the truth is I am so needy.  I am so dependent upon you.  Help us to rejoice at our inabilities, that we may revel in your ability.  We don't deserve you, Father.  We pray you would fill us with your Spirit, that we might breathe deeply and fully entrust ourselves into your gracious, loving care and protection, trusting the very words of Christ Himself, "Surely I am with you always -- even unto the end of the age." 

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