No Rest for the Wicked
It is a hectic life that we lead.
Work, school, family commitments, socializing… it’s a wonder any of us are still standing, dizzied as we are.
And at the very bottom of our ever-growing list of priorities, is our need for rest.
The Bible speaks a great deal about care for our physical bodies. Jesus’ life, in particular, emphasizes the importance He placed on rest and sleep. One would think that God incarnate would consider it unnecessary to take time to sleep and recharge, busy as He was fulfilling salvation history.
But then, He falls asleep in boats in the midst of raging storms. (Matthew 8:24)
And then, He encourages His disciples to rest after ministry. (Mark 6:31)
He even often carves out time away from the crowds to retreat and pray alone. (Luke 5:16)
Why would God model and encourage rest for us with such earnest?
Truly, the Creator knows His creation.
Medically, lack of sleep wreaks havoc on us. Short term, we can suffer decreased alertness, memory impairment and hindered fine motor skills. Not to mention overall grumpiness and irritability. In the long term, forgoing rest produces even more serious problems, like high blood pressure, obesity and possible psychiatric problems, such as depression.
Spiritually, things also tend to take a turn for the worst when we struggle with getting enough rest. As a mother of young children, I can attest to those long nights of tending to little ones, and the lack of motivation, the diminishing patience and the lost inspiration for prayer that comes with the morning light. In fact, I’ve noticed a pattern of increased temptation and struggle for holiness during those periods of time where sleep eludes me.
This made me wonder about the world at large. We live in a 24/7 society, where in most major cities, at least, you can go shopping for crayons and coffee at 3 a.m., if you so desired. There are cities that “never sleep”… and they’re proud of it. There is always noise, there is always money to be made or spent, there are always duties and responsibilities to fulfill. Stress and anxiety abound, with no seeming reprieve.
And yet, have we ever considered what our insomnia is doing to us?
There is a song written by Cage the Elephant in 2008 called “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”. The chorus sings, half desperate lament, half proud anthem:
“Oh, there ain’t no rest for the wicked,
Money don’t grow on trees,
I got bills to pay
I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free.
Oh no, I can’t slow down,
I can’t hold back,
Though you know, I wish I could.
Oh, there ain’t no rest for the wicked,
Until we close our eyes for good.”
If, as individuals, we suffer from poor judgement, increased temptation and a tendency to wander from holiness when we lack sleep, what is our obsession with universal wakefulness doing to our collective souls?
Over the past few months alone, it seems that the faith has endured blow after blow – morality crumbling, hate increasing, spiritual apathy on the rise. It has become overwhelming and has created a downward spiral that no one seems sure how to even begin escaping from.
No one, that is, except for the Spirit.
“Come to me, all you that are weary… and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
We need to return to the Creator’s plan. Our Father would not ask of His children that which they could not give. So this incessant need to be awake and the guilt that wracks us each time we dare to rest – this cannot be of God, because even He slept.
The Creator’s plan comes down to this:
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10)
As hard as it is sometimes, we should be making time for God’s stillness. When possible, go on a retreat, visit the Adoration chapel often, put the phones down and go to bed a little bit earlier – for these are some of the ways that we are stilled. From that stillness we will emerge with wisdom. We will be fearless in our evangelism and tireless in our ministries. The Church will be fruitful, thriving and alive!
And while the rest of the world stumbles along, exhausted, in its bleary-eyed haze, the Church, fully awake, will continue to fight on its behalf, as it has always done.
But first, we must sleep.