What’s the Big Deal About Sabbath Rest?
If you’re a movie buff, you’ve probably seen Hacksaw Ridge, the dramatized true story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who served as a medic in World War 2 and received a Congressional Medal of Honor for saving dozens of lives during an important battle in Okinawa. In real life, and in the movie, Doss finds himself in trouble because he refuses to learn how to use a weapon and he insists that his superiors allow him Sabbath rest.
How tightly do we hold to Sabbath rest these days? Would we go to prison over keeping the Sabbath? Or does Sabbath look more like a day with church in the morning and lawn-mowing and other chores in the afternoon?
Before we go down the rabbit hole of what a person should or shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, perhaps we should look at Sabbath differently. Religions have taken the Sabbath and interpreted it in many ways. Victorian society insisted that one should literally rest all day—not in bed, but just sit quietly reading uplifting materials.
Can you imagine how torturous Sabbath was for children? Some religions have a gentile come in to do their work on the Sabbath—turning on lights, putting food in the oven, and handling all the necessary, yet worldly, things. Other religions restrict travel and activities. While still others fill the day with meetings at church from morning until dark. As an introvert, hanging out with people all day long seems like the worst form of torture—even if we worship God together.
God Created Sabbath for Us, Not the Other Way Around
We can’t have true Sabbath rest if we operate from the point of view that Sabbath came first, and we have to set boundaries and rules around it in order to keep it. God had finished creation (including the creation of humans), before he instituted the Sabbath. In Mark 2:27, Jesus reminds us that Sabbath was created FOR man, not BY man.
Jesus also reminded us that God is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). The Jews had started keeping Sabbath just to say they kept the Sabbath.
God Created the Sabbath as a Play Date with Humanity
I think God created the Sabbath as a way to communicate with us. He wanted it to be a special day when we played all-in with him, and left our work worries behind. Somewhere between creation and salvation, the Jews short-circuited the intent of the Sabbath.
They turned it into a day of pomp and circumstance, rules and regulations, and forgot that God wanted to draw us away from the quotidian and burdensome to play with him. Once a week, God wants us to delight in him and to know that he delights in us.
Rest Starts with Adventure
My parents never made Sabbath a day of restrictions and soul-crushing stillness. I couldn’t imagine the inhumanity of a room-bound-still-as-a-church-mouse afternoon. Our Sabbath keeping started the night before.
As the sun went down, my mom would put on a record of her favorite gospel music. Then we would have a meal together as a family and welcome the Sabbath. The next morning brought other delights. Cold cereal for breakfast (a real treat, back in the olden days) and a chance to squabble with my siblings over the prizes.
After spending the morning at church, we’d take off on some adventure—often carrying a picnic lunch with us or leaving as soon as potluck ended. We’d go on hikes, collect flowers for flower pressing, see how many trees we could identify, go canoeing, or bicycling. During the summer, we’d take along picnic supplies for supper. In the winter, we’d eat popcorn and fruit milkshakes (nowadays kids call them smoothies) and play endless rounds of Rook and Uno.
I loved Sabbath because my parents both lavished their attention on the four of us kids. We didn’t sleep in or watch cartoons while our parents slept. But the day felt restful, nevertheless.
Let Sabbath be a time of adventure for your family.
Celebration and Sabbath Rest
If you read the first chapter of Genesis, you’ll notice a pattern for creatives. Create, review, and proclaim. Genesis 2:2-3 shows us that in addition to the little celebrations as we make progress on a project, we also need full-day celebrations and periods of rest.
So, if God, the Creator of the universe, took a day to rest, why do we think we can hustle along seven days a week without rest? We can’t. Well, we can, but only for so long.
The Sabbath provides the perfect space to rest and fill up our creative tanks.
Celebration and rest go together like dark chocolate and almonds. When we stop to celebrate, by definition, we engage in rest. Try celebrating while concentrating on your next project—it won’t work. You can’t celebrate AND work
In Order to Thrive, You Have to Rest
If you’ve never considered taking Sabbath rest, maybe it’s time to experiment. Take time to study the Bible and the purpose of the Sabbath—don’t just take my word for it.
Read the Biblical account of creation found in Genesis 1.
1. What do you notice about the pattern of the six days of creation?
2. How do we follow this basic schedule today?
Read Genesis 2:2-3.
1. What three events take place on the 7th day of the creation week?
If You Want to Dig Deeper:
If you have a family, engage them in your study and experiment as well. Kids do better when they understand the why behind their parents’ decisions.
But When Will I Get Everything Done?
The idea of taking an entire 24 hours to hang out with God and family seems like an anathema to most people. Trust me (better yet, trust God). When you have a day of rest every week, you actually get more done. If we honor God with our time, he’ll make the impossible seem possible.
We might not be called to keep the Sabbath while serving on the front lines of a war, like Desmond Doss, but when we keep the Sabbath, we’ll discover new ways to thrive—not only in our relationship with God but with our family members and communities.
Bio: Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and History at a small private school for Native Americans. When she’s not lurking outdoors looking for and photographing rare birds in odd places, you can find her hanging out with her husband, camping with her kids, or mountain biking with her students. You can connect with her at anitaojeda.com, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Follow this link for a special freebie for iThrive3:20 readers.
More Resources for Rest:
Stress is the enemy of rest. Tense shoulders, an upset stomach, racing mind, and feelings of panic make it difficult to experience true Sabbath rest. Of course, like David, calling out to God in times of distress is a must. First, quieting our minds and bodies so that we can experience Sabbath rest and peace in Him is the ideal.
My amazing wife Jenny and I put together two guides to help with this. You can find them here:
Because adult and childhood stressors are on the rise, our self-care skills must grow too. We wrote The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care first because you and I cannot impart to others something we don’t possess ourselves. Much like an oxygen mask on an airplane, we attend to our self-care needs first so we can find rest and be a beacon of peace and hope to others. The second guide, The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care for Kids, will equip you to do just that. It’s packed with creative freebies, including self-care infographics, printables, coloring pages, posters, and more.
Jenny and I hope these resources are a blessing to you and your family. We wish you much peace as you practice healthy self-care and find your Sabbath rest in Him!
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