To Sabbath, Or Not To Sabbath?
“Desire is infinite partly because we were made by God, made for God, made to need God, and made to run on God. We can be satisfied only by the one who is infinite, eternal, and able to supply all our needs; we are only at home in God. When we fall away from God, the desire for the infinite remains, but it is displaced upon things that will certainly lead to destruction.”Dallas Willard
Last week we looked into one of the practices to help ‘unhurry’ your life as set out by John Comer in The Ruthless Elimination Of Hurry: Silence & Solitude. This week, we are delving into another one; the Sabbath. For many of you reading this, the Sabbath means to rest up, like God did after He made the earth and all things within it. But the word Sabbath can actually mean two things:
- To Stop
- To Delight
Therefore in the context of observing the Sabbath, what we really should be doing is pausing to rest but to also take in and enjoy the world that God has put around us.
Now I know what you’re thinking, a whole day to do nothing but enjoy? I’m not sure about that because I have to do my chores, catch up on the work I wasn’t able to get done, run errands, pick up after the kids, take the kids to all their activities and parties, catch up with friends, go to the gym… The list is literally endless. Very rarely are we able to take a whole day out to do nothing but enjoy. An hour or two at a push, maybe. But a whole day?!
Others of you will be thinking but I do this all the time! I have days off or use my weekends to do nothing but binge watch TV and rest. That’s a Sabbath isn’t it?
But is it? Is that really resting and delighting in God’s world? How do you feel after spending a day binge watching TV? Because I know when I do it, at the end of it I feel worse for wasting a whole day doing absolutely nothing. It doesn’t feed my soul or invigorate me. If it does you, then keep at it, but for those of you who are like me, there’s a bit more work that needs to be put into trying to actually observe the Sabbath.
So what actually is Sabbath and what constitutes observing it?
In Genesis, the first time we experience the Sabbath after God worked so hard creating the earth for 6 days, He ‘blessed the seventh day and made it holy’. Only three things are blessed in the Genesis story:
- the animal kingdom with the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’
- humanity in the same way: ‘be fruitful and multiply’
- the Sabbath: ‘Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy…’
But why? Why did He bless a whole day alongside the animals and humans who were to be fruitful and multiply? Because the Sabbath has the ‘life giving capacity to procreate’, to fill you and the world up with more life. A doctor did a survey a few years ago looking at those who are deemed the happiest people on earth. Seventh Day Adventists ranked quite high up on the list and they seemed on average to live 10 years longer than the American life expectancy of 79. Why? Well if you observe the Sabbath every week, that adds up to 10 years over a lifetime (give or take). Therefore, if you observe the Sabbath you scientifically and statistically elongate your life.
Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your GodExodus 20:8-11
The Sabbath isn’t just a day of rest but also a day of worship, a day geared and dedicated to God and all He has given to us. Luckily this is such a broad spectrum that will look totally different to every person/family depending on where you are in your life and your journey with Him. So you need to find what works for you. This is a good thing as it is so broad it could literally mean anything, but can also seem a little daunting as there’s not just a checklist of what to do to observe Sabbath. But like you would any other holiday like Christmas or Easter, you need to plan it out and prepare for it to make sure it goes ahead as planned and uninterrupted. Time away from the constant pings of our phone, adverts selling us the dream of an easier more relaxed life with more gadgets and luxury items, Amazon deliveries, shops being open 24/7 allowing us to be on the go all the time. I remember when I was younger pretty much all shops were closed on a Sunday. Whatever you didn’t have on Sunday you lived without and made do or enjoyed the things you did have. And that’s the key to the Sabbath: stop and enjoy the things we DO have right now. Not just the physical things, but our loved ones, the food on our table and the rooves over our heads.
The moment we start truly taking this time out weekly we see it infiltrate the rest of our week, in a good way. It’s not just one day, but a way of life; you can’t work hard for 6 days a week, going non stop and then expect to be able to sit still and stop on the seventh day. It’s unrealistic. You need to find the right balance for you. And it’s ok if it takes time to get there. Sabbath or Shabbat is a verb therefore it’s something you do. A practice, a skill you hone so allow time for trial and error. Take it slow as suddenly taking a whole day out may well be a shock to the system and unrealistic to keep up. But start small, take time out of your day to connect to your family, without any of your devices, go for a nice autumnal walk, bring out your Bible, just sit and read a book. Whatever works for you that helps you to switch off and relax. If you need a hand try and use some of our resources to kick you off, but try it and see how you get on. You may well be pleasantly surprised.