From Starbucks, to Red Bull, to No-Doz, Americans are showing signs of addiction to caffeine. Sixty percent of us drink a cup of coffee a day. On average we will drink 52 gallons of soda this year. And Starbucks—they get a whopping $5.3 billion of our collective dough.
Whether we are chemically stimulating because we do not get enough sleep, or whether the caffeine itself is depriving us of precious rest, we are also sleeping less than ever before. Americans get an average of six and a half hours of sleep a night, a 25 percent drop since the early 1900s. No wonder we are stressed. And as if we needed any more help depriving ourselves of rest, scientists may have found a drug that will eliminate sleepiness.
According to a recent article in Wired Magazine, "A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called 'orexin A' reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests."
Personally, I would rather not take a chemical that helps me perform like a well-rested monkey. But the prospect of a chemical that could reduce sleepiness without the side effects other stimulants are known for could have far-reaching repercussions.
While the drug is still many years away from reaching pharmacies, it reminds me how important it is to examine the trends facing society from a biblical rather than a purely cultural perspective. We live in a culture today that spurns rest.
Whether it is working later hours to have more spending power or commuting longer distances to live "the good life," or just staying up too late to watch more TV, the truth is people are ready to skip rest to do it all. For most people, the only thing that makes this choice a dangerous one would be the potential health risks and the side effects we feel the next day. Eliminate the health risks and side effects, and ta-da!, no problem.
But what about for Christians? God built rest into the very rhythm of creation. Keeping a day of rest made His top-10 list. And believe it or not, rest serves a purpose—a divine purpose. It reminds us that God is in control. What happens when you cannot finish everything that you think you need to get done and your body is telling you, "you have to go to sleep"? You are thrown into a situation in which you must depend on God.
Rest reminds us that there is Someone we can rest in. And our need for rest is a daily reminder that we are finite creatures and must trust in an infinite God.
We cannot do it alone. And in this way rest is also a picture of the great work of salvation we are offered. We can work all we want, and we will never earn salvation. Jesus did the work for us. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest . . ." (4:9-11a).
So here's a question for you: How are you doing at resting? It may say more than you realize about how you are doing in trusting God.
This commentary first aired on January 16, 2008.