Written by Ashley S. Davis, M.A., Resident in Counseling, Rivermont Counseling LLC
When I think about practicing Sabbath, it can feel overwhelming, and if I’m honest, downright unrealistic. While a part of me longs for Sabbath, the more practical part of me wonders if it is possible to practice this spiritual discipline consistently.
In ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’, Pete Scazzero empathizes with this internal conflict and encourages Christians to approach Sabbath in four bite-sized pieces: stop, rest, delight, and contemplate.
Part 2: Rest
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day,” Exodus 20:8 – 9.
In the creation story, God the Father models His rhythmic design for humankind: work for six days and rest on the seventh. Theologian Robert Barron wrote, to rest is to “touch something deep within us as image bearers of God. Our brains, bodies, spirits, and emotions are all wired by God for the rhythm of working and resting in Him.” From this perspective, observing Sabbath is not about adhering to an ancient Jewish law, but rather adhering to a natural rhythm God has created. Just as He created the ebb and flow of seasons I, too, am subject to the laws of nature and creation. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3 – there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens. There is a time for rest. Here are four questions to help you discover what that can look like in your life.
Question: How do the rhythms in nature point us to our own need for the rhythm of work and rest?
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” Psalm 23:2.
When you think of rest, what comes to mind? In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero writes, “[Rest is] whatever delights and replenishes you.” This will look different for each person. I enjoy going on walks with my dog, taking naps, lighting a candle, and reading for fun. The key to rest is spending time engaging in activities unrelated to work – paid or unpaid. For me, rest also means clearing my mind and not even thinking about work and tasks. To guard against rigidity and legalism, it is important to note here that some tasks are unavoidable. Pets, children, and other dependents need our regular care and attention.
Question: What activities, places, and/or people create rest and replenishment for you?
There are some activities that I don’t consider “work,” but they can weigh me down, drain my energy, and threaten to rob my joy and peace. Creating space for rest means intentionally avoiding these activities on Sabbath. Examples of activities that drain me: budgeting, making decisions, conflict discussions, worry, hosting company, intense physical exercise, and social media. Your list will be unique to your personality and season of life, but it’s helpful to gain some self-awareness about activities that rob you of rest. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you discover these.
Question: What are some draining activities that you need to rest from?
For me, true rest requires planning. My husband and I recently took a relaxing vacation. In the days leading up to the trip, we were very busy with cleaning, running errands, packing, working extra hours, and preparing. Our trip would not have been nearly as restful without that careful planning and attention.
Likewise, observing the Sabbath requires some planning on the front end so that we can truly unwind. After all, it wouldn’t be very restful to wake up on the Sabbath morning to a sink full of dirty dishes, discover you’re out of coffee (the worst!), or have no clean clothes to wear. Pete Scazzero recommends setting aside another day in the week as a “day off” to clean the house, do laundry, buy groceries, pay bills, and run errands.
How can you plan your week to make room for a Sabbath day?
**Disclaimer: The ideas presented in this blog post are the opinion of a Resident in Counseling, and are not intended to be understood as professional mental health advice, treatment, diagnosis, or an indication of a professional relationship between the reader and the writer. If you are seeking mental health counseling, contact a counselor in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.