Ministry is difficult at times. Sometimes, in fact, it’s hard enough that we who lead just want to put our head on a pillow, cover ourselves in a blanket, and escape. Here are three of those times, followed by a time when we should want to sleep.
- We sleep when the opposition seems overwhelming. The prophet Elijah faced this reality in 1 Kings 19. His victory over the prophets of Baal had not been enough to keep him strong when Queen Jezebel came after him, and he fled to Mount Horeb. There, he became so discouraged that he prayed to die, lay down, and slept. I trust that most of us don’t want to die under the weight of church opposition, but I do know that some of us would like to sleep away the trouble.
- We sleep when we’re fleeing from God. It’s hard to believe that we can sleep in disobedience to God, but Jonah proved to us that we can. Actually, he slept a “deep sleep” in the bottom of the ship as he fled God’s will (Jonah 1:5). Maybe what Jonah taught us is that it’s a lot of hard work to try to outrun God. It’s draining. Time-consuming. Energy-sapping. Our physical body collapses under the strain of spiritual rebellion, and all we can do is sleep.
- We sleep when our hope and plans are disappearing. Peter, James, and John looked forward to Jesus setting up his earthly kingdom, but everything seemed to be falling apart. Opposition was mounting even as Jesus took them with Him to pray on the Mount of Olives. All of their dreams were fading. Emotionally and physically fatigued, the disciples slept when Jesus wanted them to pray (Luke 22:45-46). We, too, sometimes find ourselves in emotional retreat when our ministry hopes seem to be dissipating. Sleep becomes a welcomed escape.
Opposition. Rebellion. Hopelessness. We sleep then, but wrongly. However, there’s another time when sleep is right:
- We sleep in the peace of obedience to God’s will. Jesus Himself modeled that kind of rest when He slept in the bottom of a boat tossed about by a storm (Mark 4:35-41). The storm was so strong that seasoned fishermen were frightened, yet Jesus slept. The Son of God had been working perfectly in the center of the Father’s will, and His humanity was weary. That kind of fatigue – the kind that comes from obedience – is sweet, indeed; in fact, it allows us to weather the storm without worry.
That’s my prayer for all of us today – that we would sleep not the sleep of rebellion and hopelessness, but the sweet sleep of godly obedience. Let me know if we might pray for you today.