Not lazy, just napping — like Jesus

Photo: Brianna Tucker, Unsplash. Photo: Brianna Tucker, Unsplash.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

We all need rest — not only for our physical body but also for our mental and emotional well-being. In these troubled times, the promise of rest is good news from God.   

When we are overwhelmed, sometimes the best solution is not to do more but to get some rest. 

When the prophet Elijah was feeling overwhelmed, anxious and depressed (“O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors”), he took a nap, and it worked (1 Kings 19:4-9).   

But taking a rest or a nap during the day is not the norm. We live in a culture where drinking coffee is more popular. 

Does taking a nap make you feel more guilty than boosting your caffeine intake? If our answer is yes, then we need to counter our culture and be more balanced.   

In the United States, napping is often associated with laziness or sloth. But not in some other cultures. In Japan, napping, or inemuri, is socially acceptable. Napping is also common in Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical countries.   

In Spanish culture, people take a siesta, or afternoon rest — a tradition that is not only related to naps but also to a slower-paced life. It is the conscious effort to take a break, stop and reflect. 

Napping culture is also common in Indonesia, where I am from. In my church office back in my hometown, we have big couches the staff can use for a nap sometimes.   

For a couple of years, I lived in New York City, known as “the city that never sleeps.” I imagined a vibrant life, daily hustle and a powerful atmosphere, which I’m attracted to. But there is also a downside: a stressed and sleep-deprived population.   

It is no surprise to me that in 2020 a survey by Business Insider ranked New York City as the rudest city in the United States. It is hard to be kind when you are sleep deprived.  

Scripture advises a different approach to life: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2, New International Version). 

Rest is a gift from God. I wish God had gifted more of it to me! I envy anyone who can sleep as soon as they close their eyes. It is a blessing, especially when traveling by plane. I wish I could be the kind of person who even sleeps through the turbulence.  

Jesus could do it. Remember when the disciples were sailing and a storm hit? It is a perfect storm — rain, thunder and wind stirring up the waves. Everything is happening so fast. The disciples are panicking; you can almost see the fear in their eyes.  

Then the scene changes. Sud-denly everything goes into slow motion, and attention turns to the only person in the boat who is calm: Jesus. His face is peaceful; his eyes are closed. 

Jesus is sleeping. 

Who can sleep through a storm? Why is the storm not bothering him?   

We know the rest of the story. Jesus calms the storm. 

We tend to focus on the miracle of changing the weather: “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:27). But I think the equally important point is how calm Jesus was during the storm. 

What kind of man is this, that he could sleep through a storm?

Jesus practiced the discipline of taking a rest, even in a high-stress situation. Yes, he calmed the storm, but he also took a nap.   

Maybe this is a calling for all of us — to rest when we are tired and overwhelmed. There is a calling from Jesus to take a rest. 

Psalm 23 describes the feelings of one who knows the benefits of rest. It can become our prayer: 

“You, O Lord, are my shepherd; I lack nothing. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside quiet waters. I believe you will refresh my soul.” 

When God calls you to take a nap, don’t hesitate to do it. 

Hendy Matahelemual

Hendy Stevan Matahelemual is an ordained minister in Mosaic Mennonite Conference and lives in Philadelphia. 

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