Satan is a thief. We hear all the time how much he steals, even while he continues unchecked right beneath our own noses. We don’t even have a clue. I’ve heard it said that Satan always has time to rock the cradle of a sleeping saint. I think many of us spend years in a deep sleep, but don’t even know we are sleeping.
At least, I didn’t.
I’ve come to an understanding about suffering. It makes us sleepy. We are like the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, “Sit here while I go over there and pray…Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:36-38). He just needed them for one hour. He returned and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” Jesus again asked them to “watch and pray”. Now, you would think that if Jesus wakes you up and tells you to pray, that is what He would find you doing when He returns. Not these guys. “When he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy”. (Matthew 26:43). What a sad moment. This time, Jesus didn’t even bother to wake them. What was the point? He went back to prayer alone, without the help of His closest companions.
I awoke well past my alarm this morning with one thought in my mind: Jonah. The words of the first chapter of Jonah came immediately to my mind. “Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep” (Jonah 1:5). Jonah was also not doing what the Lord had told Him to do. He was, in fact, doing the opposite. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach against it, but Jonah boarded a ship headed for Tarshish – the opposite direction. Jonah boarded a ship moving as far away as He could possibly get from where God had called him…and he lay down and fell into a deep sleep? How did he do that? We see no evidence that Jonah was distressed in spirit about his blatant disobedience. But he was sleepy. He had no problem sleeping…right through the storm coming. The captain’s words to Jonah were, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your God!” (Jonah 1:6).
That’s a good question. How can you sleep? I used to be a person who faithfully got up with the alarm – the first time it went off. I couldn’t get to God’s Word fast enough. I hoped to have hours to pour over in prayer and time with the Lord. These days, I find it hard to get out of bed. I have a sleepiness that I’ve been unable to totally shake. I’ve been battling this for quite some time, and asking God to help me overcome. Yesterday, I realized I am being opposed by the thief. Even while I fight to rise, he makes time to rock the cradle of my suffering.
Let me explain what I mean by that. The last years of my life have been hard. We get beat down by life and become weary.These are places where Satan exploits the hardships and plants lies… doubts, despairing thoughts, bitter feelings, disappointment. At the same time, I rise each new day to a full plate. Too full actually – by my own doing. I find it hard to stay the course in the direction the Lord has sent me without veering off in a variety of other directions. I see this problem as a combination of several things: an undisciplined nature, escapism, intellectual curiosity, artistic tendencies, and maybe a little attention deficit disorder. Whatever the reasons, Satan exploits every weakness. He lulls us with lies that keep us perpetually sleepy. We don’t even know how sleepy we have been until God mercifully awakens us to this fact. And just because God has awakened us once does not mean we will stay awake. So, what do we do?
I am convinced the problem is in our minds. Satan has a number of inroads into our thoughts – in suffering and just day-to-day living. We have multiple weaknesses and faulty thinking to begin with, but all of it becomes even more pronounced when we are suffering. Satan is opportunistic and strategic. You might say He knows what tune to sing to keep us safely asleep.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
I recently made the decision to go back to a checklist of reading through the Bible once a year. I had gotten away from this practice, but found this made it too easy for me not to read the Word every day. And if I am not renewing my mind daily, I am a sleepy saint too easily kept under wraps. I read Jonah just the other day, and I believe this is why the Lord brought it to my mind this morning. He uses His own Word to rouse us from our sleep. It is His mercy that comes to us again and again. And He alone has the power to awaken his saints, and to keep us awake.
If you find today that you are struggling with sleepiness, ask God to show you what is needed to rise up. Perhaps He has sent a storm with its command, “Get up and call upon your God!” Thank Him for the wake up call instead of succumbing to the thief, the prowling lion whose lies seem to roar above the storm. And know that you serve the God who both sends and quiets the storm.
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).