Rest. For many of us it is a mysterious, confusing idea. For others it is as elusive as a unicorn. For others it is something we have trouble embracing as our compulsion to work drives us to work more hours, more days, and to leave vacation days unused. Rest. It’s important. It’s imperative. It’s a commandment of God.
A few years ago during an FCA Sports Chaplains conference, a speaker verbally punched me in the nose. He said that, morally speaking, to fail to Sabbath is equivalent to committing murder. Each is a violation of one of God’s ten commandments. Ouch. I was immediately deeply convicted. I had to confess and repent of my ridiculously consuming work schedule that had far too little margin for rest. While still sitting in the auditorium, I opened the calendar in my phone and blocked open every Sunday with a long green bar titled, “Sabbath.”
The commandment is stated rather simply, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.” Exodus 20:8-11 MSG
Before you lose your mind about legalism, Sunday vs. Saturday Sabbath, and more, take a breath. Focus on the second sentence, “Work six days and do everything you need to do.” The Lord God rested 1/7 of creation week, who are you to think you should not? Sabbath is blessed by God. Sabbath is set apart for God’s special use. Sabbath is good for you. Remember Jesus’ words about the Sabbath? “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but you don’t know how much I have to do.” That’s exactly how I tend to rationalize my failure to Sabbath, to rest. The problem is that when we fail to rest, we remove most of the margin in our lives that allows us to think clearly, to spend time with family, to enjoy life, and to experience God at an unhurried pace.
You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to do this?” This is the most difficult part of the process, beyond the simple decision to do it. For me, it was a simple choice to schedule for Sabbath. I set a recurring appointment for all day Sunday, each week, forever. However, life is seldom that simple. Sometimes my life requires that I work and/or travel on Sunday. When that occurs, I immediately schedule for rest in that same week on another day. It’s a matter of personal discipline. Rest restores your body, mind, and spirit.
Below are some simple ways to build rest into your weekly, monthly, and annual calendars:
· Schedule a day weekly for rest. At least one. Most of us have a five day work week. Rest.
· Schedule one day per month for quiet and contemplation. (Thank you John Stott for this idea.) Guard that day from busyness. Use it to read, to plan, to contemplate, to pray. Rest.
· Schedule your vacation days well in advance and use every one of them. Urgency will pressure you to leave some unused, but if you plan well in advance you can maximize their effectiveness. Use every personal leave day you are allowed. Rest.
· When you embark on your days or weeks of rest, maximize their benefit. Shut down your social media. Silence your phone. Surround yourself with people whom you love and who help you relax. Rest.
The Lord who created us knows how we function best. He says to rest 1/7 of our weeks, our months, our years. (We haven’t even opened a discussion of sabbatical years or years of jubilee.) Trust Him more than you trust your Protestant work ethic. Trust Him more than your obsession with your calendar. Trust Him more than your performance based identity. Trust Him and rest, as He did.