Confessions from an All-Nighter

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for God gives sleep to his beloved.” – Psalm 127:2

I pulled my first all-nighter in sixth grade, crafting an elaborate puppet show about the Middle Ages that I’d put off for months. The good grade created positive reinforcement, and I was hooked. I learned to lean on the twin forces of procrastination and adrenaline for the next 15 years. It seemed to serve me well, but it was eating me up inside.

Our society loves to reward anxious toil. We wear our busyness like status symbols, tote our full calendars as security blankets, proof that we matter, and a ready excuse for all we overlook.

When we lean on other forces, like our own ego, achievement, the whirl of our own little chaos, we forget to lean on God. When we binge on the bread of anxious toil—even good toil for things that matter, from puppet shows to urgent protest—our labor can become so many spiritually empty calories.

But the Psalmist’s voice comes calling up the stairs of our isolation like a parent in the middle of the night: “All that anxious toiling, over-functioning? It’s vanity! And it’s optional. Go to bed, sweetie.”

When Jesus broke bread that last all-nighter with his friends, it wasn’t the bread of anxious toil, but the bread of heaven, the bread of life. And it’s still nourishing us now.


God, we’re so vain, we probably think this devotion is about us. And maybe it is. Help us fast from the bread of anxious toil that we might feast on the bread of life. Amen.

About the Author
Kit Novotny contributed this devotional to Rise Up! Spirituality for Resistance, a collection of devotionals to keep you burning bright without burning out, whether you’re leading a justice effort at church or heading out to join a local protest. You can order Rise Up! from UCC Resources.