There’s an epidemic of exhaustion. A number of my friends and those I counsel are stressed, exhausted, and falling ill. Often I hear, “I’m so busy, everyone wants a piece of me.” “I’m responsible for so many things. There are just not enough hours in the day!” “I’m so tired!”
Those who know me will recognize my three questions.
1. How is your walk with God?
2. Are you taking care of your body: eating, sleeping, and exercising?
3. How are your relationships with family and friends?
Many, many times the answer to these questions is, “Not what it should be.”
Rest is God’s Answer
God made us. He knows how we function best. He gave us a pattern from creation. Rest! It was first mentioned in the account of creation. God went on to make Sabbath the fourth of the ten commandments. Then in explaining the commandments He said, ‘Six days you shall labour, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.’ Ex 34:21
We no longer live under the Old Testament law. Jesus gave us a new law of love. He showed us God’s grace. But, I think we ignore God’s pattern of rest at our own peril. Since He thought it was this important, it seems to me we should take it seriously.
For clergy, weekends are the busiest part of the week. If their weekly rest has to be on either Saturday or Sunday, they would never get a rest. Others also work at jobs and need to rest on different days. I don’t believe we all have to do it the same way. The grace we see in the New Testament should allow us to rest at different times. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 NIVUK) I believe that means Sabbath was meant for our good, not to fulfill a law.
Sabbath is time to get the physical rest we need. It is time to process what has been happening during the week so we are not just plowing through life, but tasting the fruit from our week. There is time to stop and just enjoy hearing the birds at dawn or see the color of the flowers or the majesty of sunset. Rest is time and space to hear God’s quiet voice of comfort and direction.
My husband and I have had a weekly day of rest almost every week for most of our 48 years of marriage.
From time to time we have heard criticism of this practice. A few have thought only lazy people could take a day off every week. More have looked longingly and said they wish they could find the time.
It takes commitment to do it. We see the benefits far out weigh the necessary planning and occasional inconvenience.
This is how we do it. Over the years WHAT we do on that day has changed, but these PRINCIPLES have not changed.
- No regular work. We don’t take meetings or schedule counseling. I don’t do any computer work, laundry, or house cleaning, etc. We even purposefully lay down discussions revolving around our work.
- We plan relaxing things we enjoy doing together. (As much as possible, we included our children in our activities.)
- We take time to share God’s goodness to us and those we love. We remember the highlights of the week.
Having a Sabbath rest requires not just setting boundaries for ourselves, but also for those we work with or for.
We don’t have to declare to everyone that we practice Sabbath every week. We can simply say, “We already have plans for Monday.”
I often tell those I’m email counseling, “I read your emails as soon as I can, but I don’t reply until Tuesday.”
If we always talk about it we sound like religious nuts. But when I see my friends suffering from stress, I do talk about it and encourage them to make the commitment.
Everyone who wants to embrace a practice of rest, must seek God’s wisdom in how to reorganize their life. Sometimes it means quitting some activities that take up too much time or that sap too much energy. Sometimes it means an activity is not meant for this season of life. Sometimes it means using our work time more efficiently.
Once you have a plan, stick to it. Taste and see the wisdom of God in following His plan for our lives.
To read about another family’s practice of Sabbath: The Gift of Sabbath