In the wee, dark hours of the morning, I carefully eased myself back into bed, not wanting to wake up my husband sleeping next to me. He hadn’t been asleep long, and there was no telling how long it would be before he would be awakened again. Our newborn daughter slept next to our bed in a bassinet, finally at peace with the world. “I hope I can get back to sleep, too,” I thought, though not so much in words as in body groans and soul pleas. I was so tired.
I nestled back under the covers, the January chill from outside creeping into our bedroom. I lay for what seemed like forever, trying to settle back into sleep. Sleep wouldn’t come, though. Praying and counting in my head…fluffing my pillow…rolling onto my other side…nothing seemed to work.
And then I realized something: I was holding my breath.
I was trying to force myself into a deeply relaxed state, while simultaneously depriving myself of its most basic need. My misdirected efforts were preventing the very thing I desired most. My muscles were tense and my heart was beating fast as I realized what I was doing. I was literally holding my breath, waiting for my daughter to wake up again.
Friends, you can’t go to sleep if you’re holding your breath.
It seems silly to even have to say that, but in my desperation and exhaustion, my natural instinct was to anticipate the interruption to my sleep. I knew it was coming, and my subconscience was braced for impact.
Here it comes. Here it comes.
Every squeak and sigh coming from the swaddled bundle nearby reminded me that I was getting up again soon, whether I liked it or not.
Here it comes.
It sounds funny when I write those words, but I think my experience as a brand new mama pretty accurately reflect the way so many of us treat our faith.
“Rest in me,” Jesus says. “I will take your burden and give you a lighter one.”
“Trust me,” God says. “I go before you and will never leave you or abandon you.”
“Do not fear,” they tell us, over and over again reminding us of our natural tendencies and their desire to change them.
And we say that we will rest in Him. We insist that we do trust Him. And we tell them that it’s hard, but that we’ll leave our fear behind. But then we nestle into our comfortable lives of faith, realizing later – with tense muscles and racing hearts – that we aren’t comfortable at all.
We’re holding our breath. We’re waiting for what we just know is coming.
The phone call from our mom, telling us the inevitable has happened to someone we love.
The message from our boss, implying that our job isn’t as secure as we thought.
The suspicious spot on our skin…lump under the surface…cough that won’t go away, that we know – we just know – means trouble.
We’re waiting for one and all of these, holding our breaths and never really allowing our spirits to relax into the full rest Christ offers. We wait for the next catastrophe as surely as we wait for the sun to come up during the sleepless nights we bring on ourselves.
But friends, this is not faith. This is not trust in a loving, benevolent Father who has gone to extreme, extravagant measures to ensure that we’re never too far away. This is not fearless walking on water, but staring with dread and suspicion at the waves lapping at our feet. This is not the rest of a child in the safety of her Father’s arms, but a rigid distrust in someone we don’t really know.
We desperately want and need to fall into soul rest, but our instinctive need to brace ourselves for impact is the very thing that prevents that thing we desire most.
Friends, you can’t rest in a loving God when you’re holding on to the idea that you have to control everything.
We don’t know what is coming next. We don’t know when our phone will ring or we’ll get that email or the doctor will call with the test results. We do know life is hard and that we are assured that trouble can snatch us from our comfort without warning, so we have to remember what we else we know.
We know God. We know His promises. And we know that He is enough for whatever may be coming…..even if we sometimes forget that in the darkest hours of the night.