27 Then (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27–28
“When God created the heavens and the earth, he did it in six days. Then, God rested. And in doing so, he built a rhythm into the DNA of creation.” John Mark Comer, ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’
Do you recognise any of these symptoms: Anxiety, overload, busy-ness, discontentment, a general state of restlessness, a feeling that there’s never enough time for the things you need to do…? If so, the Spiritual Practice of the Sabbath could change your life.
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word ‘Shabbat’. It literally means ‘to stop’. It’s a day each week to stop working, stop toiling, stop worrying – just stop. Not as a command that we must follow to earn God’s love, but as an invitation to delight in God’s presence.
It’s the permission and freedom to breathe, to worship, to delight – to do the things that really restore you and give you life.
REAL REST REQUIRES DISCIPLINE
Sabbath is totally counter-cultural – and so it won’t just happen. It requires discipline, intentionality, planning and self-control. There are always things to do, and so there will always be a reason NOT to enjoy Sabbath.
But enjoying rest – good, genuine rest – is ultimately an expression of faith. It’s a chance to thank God for all he has given us, and rest with him and in him. It’s about embracing the reality that God is God and we’re not – trusting that he’s put enough hours in each day and enough days in each week, and that the world will turn without us.
So what might this look like for you? In his book, ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry’, John Mark Comer suggests a great question to ask: “What could I do for twenty-four hours that would fill my soul with a deep joy… that would make me spontaneously combust with wonder, awe, gratitude and praise?”
Here’s how he and his family observe the Sabbath each week:
Just before sunset on Friday, we finish up all our to-do lists and homework and grocery shopping and responsibilities, power down all our devices (we literally put them all in a box and stow it in a closet), and gather around the table as a family. We open a bottle of wine, light some candles, read a psalm, pray. Then we feast, and we basically don’t stop feasting for the next twenty-four hours. We sleep in Saturday morning. Drink coffee. Read our Bibles. Pray more. Spend time together. Talk. Laugh. In summer, walk to the park. In winter, make a fire. Get lost in good novels on the couch. Cuddle. Nap.
An important caveat is needed here: Everyone’s circumstances are different. You might not live with others. You might not have a lifestyle that enables you to open a bottle of wine or feast for a day. But the Sabbath is a gift to all of us… So, what might it look like for you, knowing your own circumstances, to take a day of the week to stop working, toiling and worrying, and to dwell and delight in God?
FIRST, PLAN IT…
Why not start with this question: What could you do for twenty-four hours that would fill your soul with a deep joy?
What would you need to stop doing?
…THEN, GO FOR IT.
Set aside a time, and go for it.
Why not this week? What’s stopping you?