Bed time was a struggle in my house when I was a child. Sleep was my enemy and I hated to go to bed. I consistently struggled with the irrational fear that if I slept, I would miss out on something important. I have many memories of being carried to bed while expressing quite a protest. As an adult, I must admit that my attitude regarding sleep has remained pretty much the same. I have never required much sleep, and I have tolerated what sleep I do get as a ‘necessary evil’, so to speak. My attitude regarding sleep is profoundly changing, however, the more I realize that everything created (including sleep) was intended to be a picture or shadow of the reality of Jesus Christ. Understanding sleep as a shadow of what life in Christ is like is revolutionizing my life!
Sleep As Life
The process of sleep has been mysterious to many, and the subject of considerable research. While much is still unknown regarding the process of sleep, it is certain that sleep is essential to sustain life. In many studies, essential life functions that occur in the brain begin to break down after seventy two hours of sleep depravation.
Sleep occurs in a five cycle / stage process:
Stage 1- Light sleep
This seems to be a preparatory stage. In this stage, we are still very cognizant of external stimulus that can easily awaken us.
Stage 2- sleep
It is estimated that fifty percent of our time sleeping occurs in this stage. In this stage, eye movement stops and brain activity (measured in waves) slow dramatically. This stage prepares us to enter into deep sleep.
Stage 3- first cycle of deep sleep
During this stage of sleep, unique (slow) brain waves called ‘delta waves’ are produced by the brain along with faster waves as well. A person in this cycle of sleep is not easily awakened. This first cycle of deep sleep is also a preparatory stage for an even deeper stage of deep sleep.
Stage 4- Second cycle of deep sleep
During this stage of deep sleep, the brain’s activity is almost exclusively comprised of ‘delta waves’. It is believed that repair to the body and immune system occur during stages 3 & 4 of deep sleep. If the deep sleep stages are interrupted, a person will not feel rested or satisfied when they wake up. Prolonged interruption to the deep sleep stages can greatly weaken the body’s immune system as well. These stages of sleep are preparation, however, for a completely unique stage of sleep called REM sleep.
Stage 5- REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement)
In my opinion, the REM stage is the most fascinating stage of sleep. This stage is a completely unique stage of sleep that is the least understood by the medical community. This stage of sleep is also considered to be a ‘paradoxical’ stage of sleep because the brian is more active during this stage than any other stage of sleep, or even when fully awake! It is believed that our understanding of reality (rooted in our memories) are processed and developed during this stage of sleep. Babies spend a large amount of time in this stage of sleep as this is essential for development.
REM sleep is so vital that if REM sleep is disturbed, the next night of sleep will not follow the normal sleep pattern. When sleep resumes, the body will actually bypass the other stages of sleep and enter directly into REM sleep to make up for what was missed the other night. Since REM sleep is the stage of sleep that processes memories, our understanding and grasp on reality is believed to be connected to what occurs during REM sleep. REM sleep is also the stage of sleep in which most dreaming occurs. While dreams may seem strange, they can provide much insight into a person’s reality.
Christ As Life
Jesus Christ is the personification of true life and rest. As the scriptures tell us, the wisdom of God can be seen in the natural creation, and the act of sleep is certainly no exception. Jesus Himself indicated that He is the personification of rest when He said this:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)
He is literally the embodiment of rest, and we have been immersed ‘in’ Christ who is the personification of rest (1 Cor. 12:13). As a result, true rest is completely available to us in Christ. For me personally, however, I have only recently begun to discover how significant the rest of Jesus Christ actually is. In the past, my involvement in the religious system kept me from laying hold of His rest. Thankfully, those days are coming to an end. I have been experiencing the rest of Christ in the following stages:
Entering His Rest (equivalent to sleep stages 1 & 2)
This stage of Christ’s rest involves a shift in focus from external situations and stimulus, to His divine life within me. For me personally, the initial stage of entering Christ’s rest has been the most difficult as it has involved the laying down of two major religious focuses that many are distracted with today. Human attempts to affect change in the political arena, and human attempts to ‘clean up’ and ‘fix’ sinful people kept me from entering Christ’s rest for a long time. Both are being stripped from me.
Abiding In His Rest (equivalent to sleep stages 3 & 4)
As the external stimulus of the world’s systems are quieted in our lives, we enter into the deep abiding rest of Jesus Christ in our inner man. This is not simply an action, but a state of being. I have found that it is in this deep state of Christ’s rest that emotional & spiritual wounds are revealed and healed. Life seems to be replenished in this stage of rest. Abiding in this stage of Christ’s rest can even affect our physical health for the better as well. I have personally observed this on numerous occasions.
Acting In His Rest (equivalent to REM sleep)
As REM sleep seems ‘paradoxical’ to physical sleeping, this stage of Christ’s rest also seems paradoxical to spiritual rest. As I mentioned above, physical REM sleep involves the processing of memories and the understanding of reality. This is also where most dreaming occurs. Dreams can seem like a very different & strange world. As a result, the brian is quite active during this stage of sleep as it is operating in and is awake to a very different reality.
In the same way, this stage of Christ’s rest can seem very active as well. We are awakened to a whole new world in Christ in which there is much to explore and lay hold of. Much action can come out of this stage of rest as we are literally awakened to a completely new reality in Christ! Without Christ’s rest, we simply cannot grasp reality. Christ Himself is true reality as John 14:6 states that He is “…the way, the truth (better translated ‘reality’), and the life. Although much action & movement can come out this place of rest, we never have to leave this place of rest to explore and take part in the adventures that are in this new reality (Christ).
The great news is this, we can lay hold of this deeply needed rest at any time. You are lacking nothing as you have been given the One who is the fullness of rest. No matter what you are doing, today is always a new day of rest.
For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:8-11, NASB)
Abiding in His rest,