In 1 Kings 19:1–3 we find the prophet Elijah in quite a pickle. He had ticked off the queen by killing her prophets. She threatened to take his life, so he ran away from home.
In verse 4 we find him in the middle of a serious pity party. “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'”
It’s true that Elijah faced difficult circumstances. It’s no fun when others are mad at you, especially when they’re as mad as Elijah’s enemies were. But he totally lost perspective. He forgot that he was playing on God’s team and that he didn’t have to carry the burden of his circumstances alone. He got so wrapped up in what others were thinking and saying about him that death seemed like a good solution.
At the peak of Elijah’s misery, he did something really spiritual. He took a nap.
In verse 5 we read, “Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.”
When he woke up he found the strength to carry on. In fact, he moved from praying to die under the limbs of a broom tree to finding the strength to travel for 40 days to reach the mountain of God. On that mountain he experienced God’s presence (v. 12).
Elijah’s story reminds me of the spiritual impact of sleep. God designed our bodies to rest. In fact, He urges us to rest over and over in His Word. When we face difficult circumstances, when we feel like the whole world is against us, or when we’ve lost the desire to go on, sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is get some sleep.
Science agrees with me. A study recently published in Sleep magazine noted that teens who had a bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier got more sleep and were less likely to be depressed or consider suicide than those allowed to stay up past midnight. Researchers noted that just two extra hours of sleep each night has a huge impact on mental health.
Are you feeling depressed? Does it feel like the whole world is against you? Do your circumstances seem unbearable? Do you long to be in God’s presence, but feel like the journey is too long? Maybe it’s time for some rest.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).