I’ve enjoyed hearing from many of you with your Sabbath related questions! Your questions are the same ones I’ve wrestled through along my Sabbath journey. So, as we wind up this summer sabbath series, I want to take a few minutes to offer some insight to help you take the next step in your journey.
As you read, remember that practicing Sabbath is not prescriptive – there’s no one right way to do it. Even the way you personally practice Sabbath will change as your seasons of life change (and even the seasons of the year!). Ask God for wisdom to know what will help make Sabbath light and easy for you and leave behind everything else!
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This might be one of the biggest things that will make or break a Sabbath day! When practiced regularly, Sabbath becomes an anchor in the week. Everything builds towards it and then flows from it.
I have found that I can handle busy days with a few extra activities much better if I know they enable me to rest and enjoy life during Sabbath!
Usually the day before my Sabbath I survey everything on my to do list that I feel needs to be accomplished. (The reality is usually that there is too much to do!) I then identify the top 3-4 things that will enable me to relax and enjoy my Sabbath the most and then focus on those things first. If I don’t get to the rest, they’ll still be waiting on me in two days!
In my current stage of life, it is important to prep food for Sabbath. Maybe making something special for us to enjoy or baking breakfast food we can eat the next day and in the coming week. It for sure means cleaning up the sink area and all the dishes. Since I don’t worry with dishes on Sabbath, the piles can get overwhelming if I start the day with already dirty dishes!
Other important things might include running errands to take care of urgent needs, cleaning off counters or picking up toys so that living spaces are less cluttered and can be enjoyed more. Or maybe finishing a major project outside, or balancing the budget.
The goal is to try to tie up loose ends at the end of the week and have Sabbath be a day to reflect back on one week while receiving grace and looking forward to a new week ahead.
For me, this was one of the hardest things to learn with Sabbath. Activity and busyness had deep roots entrenched in my life. Their tendrils wrapped around my heart and deceived my mind for far too long.
Learning to be still and rest takes time. The busier you are, the longer it will take. The deeper these roots have entrenched themselves in your life, the harder it will be. Not just because it’s different, but because you have unknowingly believed lies about who you are, your acceptance and your identity.
A quiet heart comes from a truth-filled mind. If you are struggling in this area, try rehearsing these truths about Sabbath. The lens with which you see work and rest will slowly change and so will your heart.
- God made me for intimacy with Him.
- God did not make me so I could work for Him.
- God does not love me more when I work harder or better.
- God has given me life to enjoy to its fullest.
- Sabbath is a gift from God.
- Rest is not laziness.
- End results in life, work or ministry do not depend on me.
- Work and activity are not my taskmasters.
- God wants to breathe life into my soul through Sabbath.
- God accomplishes just as much (maybe more) through inactivity as He does through activity.
Yes, and no! How’s that for encouraging?! It gets easier from the perspective that you begin to look forward to it more. As you enter into rest and find ways to enjoy God, life and others, your soul is lighter, freer and more itself. You begin to find a rhythm to the day that is nourishing, enjoyable and sustainable.
Even now there are still weeks when I think to myself, “I just can’t Sabbath this week. I think it might be impossible!” Ironically, I think this when life is the hardest, pressures and needs are weighing heavily, and Sabbath is actually, the most needed.
I’ve found that if there is something that eases me into Sabbath and gets me into the right mindset, once I’m there, it’s easier to settle into it. Think about a young child who is overtired. They’ve been up too long, done too much. And as desperate as they are for sleep, their little body just can’t quite relax and enter in. That’s a great picture of entering Sabbath after a busy, stressful week.
Find something you can do at the beginning of your Sabbath to ease yourself into it. Go for a quiet walk. Watch a sunset or a sunrise. Journal. Savor a hot mug of your favorite drink. Listen to music. Do something that forces your body to slow and your mind to still. Remind yourself again of the truths of Sabbath. Ask God to help you enter into the day. Ask Him to meet you there. He will!
One of the most helpful descriptions of Sabbath for me is excluding what is typical and embracing what gives life. The only problem is that some of the things that are “typical” for me are also quite habitual. Most of us have conditioned ourselves to seek distraction, live on auto-pilot and simply do what needs to be done. When we desire to stop a particular activity during Sabbath, it can also mean unlearning ingrained habits.
So, here’s what I suggest. Start small. Choose one thing at a time to exclude from your Sabbath. Think about what causes you to engage in that activity. Plan something ELSE to do to replace it.
For example, there are times in life when I find myself using electronics for diversion and not just for intentional purposes. During these times I find myself excessively engaging with my phone during Sabbath instead of intentionally engaging with people around me. This happens more often when my phone is easily accessible. So, my plan is to leave my phone charging on the counter and go do something with people instead. It helps me disengage with one thing and frees me to embrace what is more important. Time expands. Spontaneity is heightened. Hearts are knit. Memories are made. Life is enjoyed.
No. Sabbath is a day set apart to enjoy life and relationship. The Jewish calendar has Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. The Christian calendar has Sabbath on Sunday.
Some people have to work on these Sabbath days. Some even work this day so that WE can enjoy teaching and community – pastors, teachers, or those in ministry. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need Sabbath or that Sabbath isn’t a gift God wants for them too. It just means they need to find a day during the week that works for them. Maybe a different day works better for you too!
Right now, I am taking my Sabbath from Saturday evening to Sunday evening. The time it starts varies by a few hours depending on how crazy my Saturday is or how taxing getting a boy to bed is! I find having a quiet Saturday evening prepares me to enter Sunday in a different frame of mind. And having Sunday evening to clean up a bit from the day and plan the week ahead makes me much less stressed!
The best day for you will be the day that you can pursue the purposes of Sabbath to its fullest – rest, relationship and rejuvenation. It can be the middle of the week or a weekend day. One is not better than the other. I even read recently of one couple who Sabbath on different days and it works quite well for them!
I would highly recommend the same day of the week if at all possible. This will help anchor your week and provide a rhythm to life that will reap benefits for you. For some, this is impossible. Maybe you work a flex schedule. Or maybe you’re in ministry and every week looks different. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to look at your schedule each week and find a day that will work for you.
Once you identify the day, guard it fiercely. Say no to requests that come up. Sabbath can be your priority – it has the right to take precedence over other things.
I believe a full 24 hours has the most benefits. This length of time forces wrong thought patterns to be uncovered. It forces us to slow down long enough to stop the momentum from the rest of the week. There is enough time for our souls to be filled and to receive grace for whatever is ahead in our week.
That being said, there are weeks when things happen and my Sabbath ends up being a bit less – 20 hours instead of 24. Or Sunday morning to Sunday evening instead of beginning on Saturday. Here’s an important truth to remember
Ask God to meet you with what you can do. He pours out grace on you. You can give yourself some grace too. Sabbath doesn’t have to be practiced perfectly. It just has to be entered into.
If it seems impossible to find 24 hours in your schedule right now, try 4 or 5. Start small. Add hours on as you are able. You’ll quickly find you need more time and want more time! God will enter in to your work and life and make it possible to increase this time if you ask Him to. Remember, Sabbath is His gift and He can’t wait for you to receive it!
Want more help pursuing Sabbath?
- Explore the other 4 posts in this series.
- Subscribe and get instant access to the following resources in the FREE Resource Library! (under the Sabbath category)
- PDF list of 50 typical activities to STOP and 50 life-giving activities you could EMBRACE during Sabbath
- Background wallpaper image of Mark 2:27
- 30 Day Meditation Guide to lead you through the truth of Scripture regarding Sabbath
- 4×6 card with 10 truths to help you cultivate a quiet heart