When Is Your Sabbath?
Do you practice a regular Sabbath?
The book of Genesis tells us that after creating the world, God took a day for rest. He then commanded his people, the Israelites, to “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it wholly” (Exodus 20:8). While Jesus later declared that He is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-13) and that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), He never did away with the idea of Sabbath. God created us to need regular times of rest, restoration, and remembrance of his provision in our lives.
“The root idea of Sabbath is simple as rain falling,” writes Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God. “It’s that all living things—and many nonliving things too—thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. A bird flying, never nesting, is soon plummeting.”
Buchanan continues: “Setting apart an entire day, one out of seven, for feasting and resting and worship and play is a gift and not a burden, and neglecting the gift too long will make your soul, like soil never left fallow, hard and dry and spent.”
Those who serve in ministry are not exempt from the need for Sabbath; in fact, the weight of ministry makes Sabbath-keeping even more important. We delude ourselves if we think we can’t “afford” to cease from work one day a week: “If we are not able to rest one day a week, we are taking ourselves far too seriously,” Marva Dawn writes in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly.
The main questions of Sabbath are not whether, but when and how. Regarding when, most ministry leaders will need to designate a day other than Sunday, which is usually anything but restful. For the how, Buchanan advocates two principles: “Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life.” Dawn elaborates: “To cease working on the Sabbath means to quit laboring at anything that is work. Activity that is enjoyable and freeing and not undertaken for the purpose of accomplishment qualifies as acceptable for Sabbath time.”
I have practiced a weekly Sabbath for decades. My Sabbath usually begins after dinner on Saturday evening and continues through dinner on Sunday evening. On Saturday evenings I usually engage in quiet activity such as reading or journaling. On Sunday morning I worship with my church family, which is followed by lunch with family and perhaps some friends. I then take a deep and carefree nap, waking to watch some sports on TV with my husband, or perhaps more reading or conversation. If the weather’s nice, I may take the dog for a walk, but I don’t run or participate in other strenuous activity. After a light dinner, I turn my attention to the week and work ahead.
I can testify that this regular practice has been truly life changing. I thought that taking a day of rest would make me more stressed the rest of the week, but in fact the opposite has been true: I work harder and better because my body and mind are rested, my soul restored. I am also more intentional with my time during the week before so that I am prepared and can truly rest on my Sabbath.
What changes do you need to make so that you can incorporate a day of Sabbath rest into your weekly rhythm?