Last year I spent a little time thinking, reading and praying about Sabbath. (Sabbath is the Jewish and Christian practice of setting aside time in which you do not work.) Even though it’s a key element of my faith (listed in the Ten Commandments!), I seemed to have only a vague sense of what it was, the reason for it and the importance of it.
One of the most important things I discovered about Sabbath is that it’s given to us to remind us of our dependence on God—
“We strongly need to see the manifest hand of God in what we are and what we do. We need to be sure He is pulling the load, bearing the burden—which we are all too ready to assume is up to us alone. We must understand that He is in charge of the outcome of our efforts, and that the outcome will be good, right. And all of this is encompassed in one biblical term, ‘Sabbath.’” —Dallas Willard
This was eye-opening for me, because some of my main excuses or fears when facing the prospect of not working for a period of time is that something important won’t get done, that I’ll let down someone depending on me, or that there’s too much to do to take a break. But through Sabbath, God is saying that I must be reminded that my identity is not in what I do (it’s in God), that he is the one who takes care of me and my loved-ones (not my own money or competence), and that it’s actually pride and self-importance that keeps me working too much (the same sins that keep me from having faith in God).
It seems that the very reason it’s hard for me to practice Sabbath is the precise reason that it should be practiced!
There are many different ways to practice Sabbath, but here are a couple to consider ::
- Spend some time (in solitude and silence) doing absolutely nothing. Don’t have an agenda. Don’t try to meditate or pray. Just be. Let thoughts rise to the surface as they come. (Leviticus 25:4-7)
- Don’t work for an entire day. Let the laundry sit, don’t check your email, and give yourself some extra time with God. Maybe this means reading a book of the Bible (29 books take less than 20 minutes to read!) or praying about things you usually don’t have enough time to pray about. Perhaps you could read a book about God that you’ve had sitting on your shelf for awhile (like this or this). Enjoy some extra time to invest in your relationship with God. (Exodus 20:8-11)
- Every seven years, take a break from volunteering. If you’ve been active in a ministry, take a Sabbatical. Rest. Pray. Reevaluate. See if God takes you in a different direction or sends you back into your old ministry with renewed vigor. (Leviticus 25:4-7)
What about you? Do you practice Sabbath? If so, how do you practice? If not, why not? Doesn’t this seem to be a strangely unpracticed spiritual discipline among contemporary American Christians?