I have narcolepsy. I have had it since I was a teenager, but I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was in my early twenties. I am sure that most of you have heard of narcolepsy and have assumptions about how it impacts those with this issue. A lot of people immediately jump to the image of someone falling asleep at random moments. Although this can happen, that is not really how narcolepsy affects most people. The simplest way to describe this syndrome is by imagining that someone put the four stages of the sleep cycle (wake, light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep) into a box, shook it up, and pulled out whatever one they grabbed. That is essentially what my brain does with the sleep cycle.
For me, the worst part of narcolepsy isn’t the feeling tired during the day. It is actually the lack of ability to sleep at night. While a normal person’s brain will cycle everything in order, my brain likes to throw in the “wake” part of the cycle quite often. In fact, I woke up over fifty times during the six-hour sleep test that I had which led to my diagnosis. There is good news though: narcolepsy medicine exists! Although this syndrome is incurable, there are ways to make it better. Every night, I take a prescribed drug before bed and another dose four hours later. This allows me to sleep somewhat like a normal person. I have taken this drug for years, and it works quite well. The only issue that I ever have is that my delivery (it’s a mail-order prescription) gets delayed a day every so often. When that happens, I am guaranteed to have an awful night where I get almost no good sleep.
Last week, for some reason, my order got delayed for two days. The lack of rest really did a number on me. I was dragging, lethargic, and unmotivated for those days. I could not have been more excited when the delivery driver dropped off my new shipment of meds. I was finally able to get a solid night of sleep. The next morning, as I was driving to work, I was praising God for medicine and doctors. In my prayer, I thanked him for providing me relief from a situation in which I am helpless. Then a thought crossed my mind: that is exactly what Christ did for all of us on the cross.
You see, while I was born with an issue that affects my sleep, we were all born with a much larger problem— sin. Every one of us was born into sin, and it affects us for our whole lives. On top of that, there is nothing that we can do to help ourselves. It doesn’t matter how good of a life that we live, how much money we give to charity, or how many good deeds we perform. Nothing that we do can take our sinfulness away. Worst of all, our sin eventually leads to us being separated from God for all eternity when we die. That is where Jesus stepped in for us. Second Corinthians 5:21 says. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God, knowing that there was nothing that we could do to help ourselves out of our situation, sent his son to be a substitute for us. When Jesus died on the cross, he took our sin to the grave with him. Three days later, he walked out of his tomb with our righteousness in his hand. For those who believe that, this means that we get to spend all eternity walking the streets of gold in the perfect presence of God.
While Christ secured our eternity, we still struggle with sin in the here and now. We do not get to fully escape the impact of sin on our lives until we die or Christ returns. Much like my narcolepsy, it will be a nagging issue for us for the rest of our lives. Good news: there is something that we can do to help win the battle with sin. I believe the only way to combat sin is to spend time in the presence of God. You cannot win this fight alone; you need to bring in a much bigger power. There is no one-size-fits-all method to spending time with God. I think that prayer and scripture need to be a part of it, but there are many, many other avenues that you can take to spend time with your heavenly father. It can be done through singing, listening to music, writing, reading, being out in nature, being in silence, discussing faith with others, exercise, podcasts, taking a class, baking, bible studies, etc. There are limitless ways in which you can spend time in God’s holy presence. Whatever it is that fills your heart with joy, there is a holy way to do it.
We will never fully conquer our sin in this lifetime, but it can be treated, maintained, and made under control by spending time with God. There will be times that you neglect this spiritual practice. Take it from me, it will have ramifications on your life. Much like when I miss a day or two of my narcolepsy meds, it will affect every ounce of who you are. It will turn you into a lesser version of yourself. We were not made for sin; we were made to be in communion with God. It is only through that communion that you can live your life to the fullest and be victorious over sin in your daily life. We are dependent on the medicine that is being in God’s holy presence. Here’s hoping that we never miss a dose.