By Samantha Wittgen
We have heard of Sabbath – we know that it has something to do with rest, and maybe that it is reserved for an entire, specific day. We usually can recall where it comes from – a command in the Old Testament to follow God’s lead in resting from work. We might even have tried to practice Sabbath before. However, we usually miss the best part of the Sabbath, what it’s for.
I would venture that each person reading this has at some point been victim to the lies of practicing Sabbath: I’m not good at being still and I have too much to do. I say victim because I think that word describes who we become & how we feel – enslaved, fearful, confused, frustrated – because we aren’t practicing Sabbath perfectly. When these feelings surface, the Sabbath loses its truth & allure as a holy gift and becomes a menacing lord over our lives.
In the Old Testament in Exodus, the Sabbath was given as a mandate – a law – to the people of Israel for them to celebrate who God is & what He had done for them. God asked them to rest in remembrance of His work to bring them out of slavery; resting on the Sabbath was and is an active display of obedience & trust in our God who always provides!
Jesus says the Sabbath is a gift for us – to meet our needs – and that we are not slaves of the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus reminds us that He is the Lord of all things, which includes the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). One of the greatest truths to remember regarding the Sabbath is that when our identity is in Jesus Christ, it does not have the power to convict or rename us – we are not lazy, we are not selfish, we are beloved.
We don’t have to look farther than God, His Word, and each other to understand the things of God, and so I’ve asked for your input for this post: what is Sabbath, why is it hard, and how do you practice Sabbath?
WHAT IS SABBATH?
“God kindly showed me that Sabbath time is a gift. A gift to cease striving.”
“It's a mentality of: everything else can wait. Most importantly, I've discovered Sabbath isn't just resting, but re-centering yourself on the creator God who refreshes… A rest with God.”
“We can go without Sabbath, but it's like doing an overnighter: you drudge through life drained and tired.”
“It's a time to physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually relax and remember that God's actually good at being God. Sabbath doesn't require me to do anything.”
"In order for your soul to be healthy, you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."
WHY IS RESTING HARD?
“Sabbath is not something I'm doing perfectly, but I have been much more intentional in practicing it lately. After an overload of stress and physical injury last year I experienced panic attacks for the first time in my life. I thought I was dying.”
“I don't think I intentionally exclude rest from my life, rather, I think you get stuck in a thought process of "I NEED to get ______ done". So it's more to do with priorities than rest.”
“For me, the hardest thing about Sabbath is it goes against everything I know and against everything society values - both in Christian circles and not. We're expected to produce and achieve. Hurry is all around us: we must meet deadlines, we must build our resumes, we must achieve. That's why Sabbath feels so foreign to us - because we don't know not-doing and not-achieving.”
WHAT DOES YOUR SABBATH LOOK LIKE?
“This is not to say I don't suffer the anxiety – I just had a mild attack yesterday – but I'm definitely am taking a different approach in listening to my body and God more.”
“Some of my favorite Sabbath moments have been when I'm not doing anything "sacred" - like times when I'm enjoying a bike ride or crafting or lounging with my cats. It has been in these types of moments, that my mind has been blown at just how thick I've sensed God's nearness compared to the times I had the accomplishment mindset in my Sabbath… I do think there's beauty in simply resting and delighting in the Lord and creation!”
“My first example is when I married my wife, Maryann. Before we married we agreed to take the first year as a rest. We did things together, went places together. We spent our time with each other. Did not engage in stuff outside of us. We kind of separated ourselves for that first year. It strengthened our marriage for 28 years.”