Waking up before the sun rises is a very sexy thing to do in our culture—predominantly because it shows you’re determined and productive. People love to flaunt the fact that they wake up early, but what I’ve come to find is, many people wake up early to simply be productive earlier.
I admit: I love waking up early, but not for the reasons many others in our society do.
I’m not too concerned about productivity. Work will get done. What I love about waking up early are the spiritual benefits in the activity.
Let me explain.
I began waking up early after I honestly read of Jesus waking up early to pray (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). Before then, I wasn’t necessarily a night owl. I would still go to bed at about midnight each night. But, I would sleep in for no reason.
I believe Jesus woke up early for a reason. I believe Scripture was intentional when it spoke on Jesus waking up to be by Himself. There’s a spiritual undercurrent in this activity, signifying that waking up early has more benefits than just getting work done. I was determined to find what these benefits were.
One year, after my resolution to live more like Jesus, I committed myself to finding quiet time in the early margin of the day. At first it was painful, but I was ultimately able to change my habits, and radically change my sleep schedule to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
I haven’t stopped since.
Here are the benefits I found to be true in my experiment:
1. When you wake up early, you can do whatever you want
No person is completely selfless. A person might be 95% selfless, but in order to be this selfless, there has to be a certain percentage where they are feeding their self. We need a healthy balance of selflessness and self-care.
I strike this balance by waking up early. I give myself the nourishment I need with time in Scripture and writing so that I can be more available to others during the day.
I admit, waking up at 5 each morning doesn’t mean I’m constantly with people during the day. But at least I’m not pressured to complete work when they do want my time and attention.
To be selfless, you need a degree of self-care. Let your mornings provide that time.
2. When you wake up early, you can withdraw from the noise
Our schedules, cell phone notifications, social media, etc. are constantly bombarding our attention. There’s no denying we live in a noisy culture.
The noise only becomes a danger when it starts affecting how we view our identity and meaning in life. This is why it’s important to have a time where we are separate from the noise. As author Mark Sayers said in his book, Facing Leviathan:
“It is through the process of withdrawal that the leader discovers the myths and illusions from which he is apart. The leader gains critical distance.”
In a busy society, we can distance ourselves from the noise by waking up when it’s not shouting in our faces.
3. When you wake up early, your thoughts are less cluttered
When people rush to work, their thoughts are typically everywhere. They can’t seem to gather them together, and they often miss things—sometimes, important things.
But what happens with your thoughts as you go along in your day is they pick up. They don’t slow down.
In the Bible, we are told to renew our thinking and set our mind on things above (Rom. 12:2, Col. 3:2). But how can we do this when our thoughts are cluttered with what we have to do for the day?
When you wake up early and don’t rush yourself, your thoughts are more together and less cluttered. You allow yourself the freedom to think more on the things that truly matter—such as aspects of our character and how God is moving in our lives.
We make a difference by thinking differently.
Wake up earlier and allow yourself the freedom to think about more than just your to-do list.
4. When you wake up early, you can avoid being mastered by petty things
I used to be frustrated with how few hours in a day there were. As a result, I rushed through everything, trying to get the most done in the twelve hours I had. But when I began waking earlier, I found that I was able to pace myself throughout the day. My mind didn’t feel rushed, and I felt less stressed and anxious.
When you perceive time to be so limited, it only puts pressure on you. This is bad because time should not master us like this. We were placed in freedom, not to constrain ourselves even more, but to actually experience freedom. This means, we subdue time. We take ownership of it by not letting it rule our emotions and stress.
We always have freedom, but sometimes, it takes pausing in the margins of the day to realize it.
Here’s the thing about waking up early: it’s not easy, especially if you’re a night owl. But if you want to experience these spiritual benefits, and discover for yourself why Jesus found early mornings to be so valuable, here are a couple strategies I suggest to get started:
- Ease into it. Increase your wake time by fifteen or thirty minutes until you get to the time you want to wake up at.
- Plan out your morning. You’ll want to hit the snooze button when you first wake up. Without a plan, you’ll give into this desire. Latch onto a goal you want to accomplish for the morning.
- Place your alarm on the opposite side of the room. It’ll require you to get up to turn it off.
- Immediately drink a glass of water or wash your face after you wake up.
- Pray for God to give you the ability to wake up earlier.
This isn’t another “do-this” item of religiosity. Waking up earlier does not make you a better Christian. It is simply another way to see the wondrous works of God clearly in your life.
Whether you decide to do it or not is up to you. But I want to challenge you to at least try it. Try waking up earlier, and write about your experience in the comments section below. Let’s decide for ourselves if this is just another sexy practice of society, or a true life-giving discipline.
If you liked this post, check out: