Sleep Is Not Refreshing

I’ve been reading through Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan to my kids.  We do a few pages at the breakfast table in the mornings.  I know they’re young, but I’m hoping to go through it several times over the coming years, and I pray that the spiritual truths will slowly sink into their hearts.  In the meantime, they’re captivated by an exciting story like I was at their age.

I just pulled out a fascinating little nugget from this story for myself that I wanted to share.  For those of you not familiar with this story, it is a beautiful allegory of our Christian walk with the Lord, depicted through the tale of a man named Christian who takes a journey from his City of Destruction to Mount Zion and of all the adventures and encounters he has along the way.

The part that really struck me a few days ago was the bit about the Hill of Difficulty.  Christian is climbing this hill, and it’s really tough going.  He has to pull himself up this mountainside on his hands and knees, and he is brutally exhausted.  On the side of the road is an arbor that God made to provide him with some rest, so he steps off the road for a moment to sit on this little bench and take a break.  He pulls out a scroll with words from Jesus that was given to him when he received his salvation and means to encourage and refresh himself a little from the hard journey.  What really happens is that he’s so worn out he falls asleep, and when he does, he drops his scroll under the bench.  He wakes up several hours later, in horror that he’s slept the afternoon away, and rushes off to make it to shelter before night fall.  As he’s traveling along, he meets some men who are terrified of lions up ahead.  He wants to fight his fears with the words of Jesus but he realizes he doesn’t have his scroll anymore.  As it’s his ticket into Mount Zion, he has to go back and get it.  He retraces his steps in tears and prayers and finally finds it under the bench where he slept and repents to the Lord for falling asleep before continuing on his way.

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This is a photograph of an illustration from the Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress edition released by the Moody Bible Institute in 1960.

Now, as a child, I could never understand why Christian would repent for falling asleep on the bench.  I mean it was placed there for him to get a rest, and if he was tired, wasn’t a nap a good thing?  But now as an adult, I get it.  He was in a trial in his life, and it was really, really hard.  It was totally wearing him out, and he needed a moment to catch his breath before his difficulty got the better of him and he gave out in the middle of the road.  God provided a moment of rest for him, time he was supposed to use to refresh his spirit by connecting with the Lord through the word, and instead he fell asleep.  Instead of digging deeper into the Lord and finding strength for the journey ahead, he loses his focus, he stops keeping watch and drops his connection to Jesus.  And when he does wake up and remember he’s supposed to be moving forward, this forgetfulness causes him to lose time by having to retrace his steps.

How many times have I done this?  I’m so worn out by fighting my spiritual battles, by climbing my hills of difficulty, that when God gives me a breather, a few days of rest, I use it to pull away from Him, to forget everything, to forget to connect deeper to Jesus and just wander away spiritually and mentally.  Then when it’s time to resume my fight again, I’ve lost ground because I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned and need to retrace my steps again.  This was such a powerful reminder to me that just because things get a little easier for a moment, that doesn’t mean I should loosen my tenacious grip on the Lord, even for a second.  The time of peace should be used to dig in deeper and bring strength to myself through my connection with Jesus during in my quiet times.  I’m going to need that strength and that connection again when I resume my road, which always comes sooner than I expect.  It’s time to stop falling asleep.

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