Easter 2024 - Day 5: Emotions and Sleep

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. Matthew 26:40

You might object to sleep falling into the category of emotions and I am with you. Sleep is not an emotion, but it can be a symptom of emotions as it is in our text. You remember the scene… Jesus and the eleven disciples left the upper room headed for the Mount of Olives - a regular place of prayer for Jesus. And coming to a garden area, He instructed eight disciples to sit down while He took Peter, James, and John with Him a bit further. These three then witnessed Jesus becoming distressed and extremely sorrowful. And He offered this explanation, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Mt 26:38 So you see, a deep dark depression came upon Jesus as the time of His suffering drew near. And going a little further, Jesus fell on His face and prayed Mt 26:39. We read a couple of short excerpts from His prayer, but these are certainly not His entire prayer because the following verse indicates He was about an hour before returning to check on the three disciples and when He came to them, He found them sleeping. Luke adds an important detail; He found them sleeping for sorrow Lk 22:45. The Master whom they followed so closely was very sorrowful and this caused the disciples to become sorrowful with Him. As a child reflects the emotions of the parent - so the disciples reflect the emotion of their Lord. Both were sorrowful but the response to that sorrow was polar opposite. Jesus took His sorrow to prayer, crying out with loud cries and tears, to him who  was able to save him from death… He 5:7 While Jesus took His sorrow to prayer, the disciples took their sorrow to sleep.

No temptation had overcome the disciples that is not common to man 1Co 10:13. Who doesn’t want to escape sorrow and suffering? And many find escape in sleep… Not from sorrow only, but from a verity of emotions. But what does it mean when emotions overwhelm, and we go to sleep instead of to prayer?

First it means we are setting ourselves up for a fall. You see when you sleep instead of praying, you take God for granted. Don’t believe that? Look at what Jesus said to the disciples when He found them sleeping; "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mt 26:41 Jesus had no doubt that their intentions were good, but the disciples did not realize just how weak was their flesh. They needed divine help, or they would fall and they just assumed they would have it - without asking. You do not have, because you do not ask. Jas 4:2 When emotions overwhelm, and we sleep instead of pray - you really are setting yourself up for a fall. (see also 1Co 10:12)

Second, when emotions overwhelm and we go to sleep instead of to prayer, it means our habits need to change. Our habits reflect our character. About twenty-five years back, I fell into a pattern of escape. Things were overwhelming and I did not have the character habits to deal with it. Practically every afternoon I would sneak off and sleep. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. Pr 6:10–11 And that is exactly what happened to me. My life was stolen from me while I slept. You see, no one changes in their sleep - but other things do - like your problems. They keep progressing while you are escaping. The challenge is that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character - so if you are finding ways to escape the suffering, you are never learning endurance and character is never produced Ro 5:3–4 I once heard a very famous pastor say, "sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep." I would add, only under the Lordship of Christ and never in response to overwhelming emotions. The only acceptable productive escape is God Himself, our refuge and ever-present help in trouble Ps 46:1.  

As God prepares you for Resurrection Day, what character habits need to be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Remember, He knows that your spirit is willing, but He also knows that your flesh is weak, and He has encouraged and invited you to watch with Him and pray. Finish your prayer time focusing your attention on Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection for you.
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