It’s a New Day–Rats!

If alarm clocks had free will, they’d have organized a major uprising decades ago–and been entirely justified. Nothing in the history of the world has been so vilified and abused for doing precisely what it was told to do. Would you work for a boss who every evening left you the instructions to “wake me tomorrow at six”–then, when you did, cursed you out for interrupting his sleep and slapped you across the face?

Not that human aversion to morning began with the alarm clock. One of Aesop’s fables from around 600 B. C. tells of two housekeepers plotting to kill the farm rooster because they were fed up with having to rise for work at cock’s crow. Even earlier, Proverbs 6:9-12 chided, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”

Small children jump out of bed in the morning eager to start a new day. Elementary-age children show early signs of “I-don’t-wanna-get-up-itis” when they learn to hate school, but still are first out of bed on weekends. For adults, however, part of the attraction of the weekend is not having to get up until we’re good and ready. It’s as though we learn to regard the waking world as a barely necessary evil. (Could it be that when Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children and to adults with childlike hearts, He was thinking of the child’s zest and enthusiasm for getting involved in life as opposed to the adult’s tendency to dread it?)

Sadder yet, not all people stop at groaning their way out of bed on weekdays and sleeping late on weekends. One symptom of severe depression is a tendency to retreat to bed and stay there, completely devoid of motivation to rise. And many suicides are preceded by remarks to the effect of “I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up,” as if all hope is lost of life being worth waking to even on the better side of death.

What causes our childlike joy in the arrival of a new day to die of old age before our bodies even reach their prime? One factor, certainly, is fatigue from trying to carry self-imposed burdens in our own strength, instead of trusting God’s strength to guide us. Overload, combined with obsessive fretting, not only gives us more excuses to dread facing the world but saps our ability to properly recharge through sleep–pushing our bodies to demand quantity rest in the absence of quality rest.

Another major factor is the feeling that, as Ecclesiastes 1:2-9 colorfully laments, “Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say…. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” To small children, everything is new and exciting; adults quickly learn to feel that they’ve seen it all and there’s not much to it.

Is there any hope of finding a rejuvenation formula?

There are three much-quoted Bible passages easy to associate with the proper attitude toward getting up in the morning–and, interestingly, they come from three widely variant attitude contexts.

Psalm 30:5b: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Associated with the dedication of the Temple, Psalm 30 speaks of God’s rescue in times of trouble, acknowledging serious familiarity with the “sinking into the pit” feeling but radiating an overall sense of victory.

Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118 is almost entirely upbeat, focusing on the victories God gives.

Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Someone who read only the first part of Lamentations 3–or the larger part of the book it comes from–might well consider it the best possible argument for staying in bed forever. The contextual focus at the beginning is almost entirely on extreme suffering. Even where the tone shifts to hope, it’s a distant, vague hope, or at best a small relief almost infinitesimal among the larger pain. 

In some ways, though, it’s a larger relief to know that even God’s prophets had times when life got almost too hard to face. While a general boredom with life can often be remedied with a small shift in focus, there are times when extra rest can only do us good. A person undergoing cancer treatment isn’t expected to work and socialize at the same intensity level as one in perfect health; why shouldn’t a sick soul have a little extra time to do nothing except let go and let God build fresh hope in the heart? The idea that it’s our “Christian duty” to be unreservedly happy at all times can in fact become just another self-imposed burden God never meant for us to carry.

Extreme circumstances aside, the problem isn’t in the “I-don’t-wanna-get-up-itis” itself; that may well be a valuable signal that God is trying to get our attention. The problem comes when we focus on our own selfish bitterness toward life’s not always suiting us, instead of seeking God’s solution to our feelings of dissatisfaction.

He alone grants true rest–and true energy for enjoying life.

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