In the early morning hours of March 28, 1979, the United States suffered its worst nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island in Middletown, Pennsylvania when the Unit 2 reactor had a partial meltdown. The following investigation revealed that the plant workers were suffering from a lack of sleep. They were so sleep-deprived in fact that they failed to notice the plant was losing coolant until more than half the nuclear reactor’s core had melted. Not getting enough sleep and rest by the shift workers that night almost caused the death of millions of people.
Christians are not immune from being tired and overworked, and many times we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion in order to do the Lord’s work, but is this the way it is supposed to be? 1 Kings 19 shows us Elijah at his most vulnerable. He had just called down fire from heaven and defeated the prophets of Baal. For an encore he called down rain from heaven and ended a drought. He was tired and Jezebel was after him. So, what does he do? He runs four hundred miles into the desert. He sits down, asks God to die, and then falls asleep.
How the Lord responded shows His love and mercy, and it gives us some great lessons about the need to rest. First, being tired is not a sin. Elijah got tired. We get tired. Even Jesus got tired. It is part of being human. Second, part of our life must be dedicated to rest. It is important to notice the Lord’s reaction after Elijah fell asleep. He woke him up. Prepared a meal for him and told him to eat. Then He let him go back to sleep. He didn’t chastise him for being tired. He didn’t berate him for being discouraged. He just let him rest. Why? Verse 7 tells us “because the journey is too great”. Rest is not optional as a believer it is a necessity.
You see, rest does three main things for us as a believer. First, it helps our body to heal and to be restored. While the saying, “it is better to wear out than rust out” is nice, I don’t believe it is necessarily Biblical. God designed our bodies with the need for rest in mind. Second, it allows us to refocus. Gordon Dahl wrote, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.” When we rest it allows us to refocus on those things that are most important. Finally, it allows us to continue on in our Christian journey. Verse 8 says that after Elijah ate the second time, he “went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God”.
As believers we must get out of the mindset that we must be going twenty-four seven. We believe that if we don’t keep going, it won’t get done. Maybe, but think of how much won’t get done if you die from exhaustion. That won’t do anyone any good.