Have you ever gone an extended period of time without sleep? It’s awful! My wife, Afrika, and I have two wonderful children who are around 12 months apart. While they were both in diapers, they decided to stagger their schedules. Neither child could talk, so I am not sure how they coordinated their efforts. Nevertheless, our daughter Serena would be quite active during the day, but she would sleep through the night. Our son Cairo was relaxed during the day, but would fight sleep like his life depended on it. As a result, my wife and I were sleep deprived for a couple of years, and there were many days where I thought I could lose my sanity. If you are a parent or guardian, you can, no doubt, empathize with this level of exhaustion. Most parents, while awake in the middle of the night with their baby, would never imagine that the tiredness they felt in that moment would one day be their child’s norm.
Research indicates that young people (Gen Z) are sleep deprived at disproportional rates. There is evidence that this lack of rest contributes to a higher chance of accidents, problems in school, depression and other mental health issues.* Electronics play a major role in driving youth sleep deprivation. Many young people stay awake late into the evening watching videos, interacting with friends, and playing video games. While all of these activities are fine in moderation, studies show that teens spend over seven hours each day in front of a screen — that is more time than most students are in school. Now, before you start locking away phones and video-game systems, this same research indicates that Gen Z’s use of electronics is a coping mechanism — a way to deal with stress and trauma. Taking away electronics without addressing the reasons why young people spend so much time in front of screens can damage relationships and exacerbate the problem. The answer does not lie in talking something away; rather, we should give the young people we love something better.
Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30:
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)
In his love and mercy, God provides us with an eternal source of rest: Jesus Christ. In his wisdom, God knew we would need the rest only he could provide. This provision of rest is not just after Christ’s second coming, when our Lord will free us from all toil and trouble. Rather, we can experience a foretaste of that eternal rest now (see Hebrews 4). Since Christ is our rest, relief from all forms of weariness is always available for those who follow him and can never be exhausted. The way in which we access our rest in Jesus is through incorporating the concept of a sabbath rest into our life rhythm. A sabbath rest is a regular time we set aside from our work and the other ways we typically occupy ourselves to make room for God, knowing that we need him in order to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. God had to command Israel to keep a weekly, 24-hour sabbath, because he knew it was needed. It was designed to be a gift to them. But like other gifts, they turned it into something burdensome.
What I’m referring to should also be a gift for your family. What if you set aside some time each week where you spend time with family and friends without electronics or other distractions. If you are artistic, what if you did something creative like art, music, crafts, etc. What if you and your family went on a walk, hike, or bike ride to appreciate creation and to spend time together. These are all wonderful ways to find rest in Christ. Setting aside time to journal and process the events in one’s life in light of Christ is another way to experience a sabbath rest. The point is, every family needs to prioritize some time to slow down, focus on God, focus on the family and properly order our life around Jesus.
Generations Ministry Director
*Beebe, Dean W. “Cognitive, Behavioral, and Functional Consequences of Inadequate Sleep in Children and Adolescents,” Pediatric Clinics of North America Volume 58, Issue 3 (June 2011): 649-665. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031395511000186?via%3Dihub