Following his trip to Israel, my friend Jon Brown felt conviction over the lack of a regular rhythm of rest in his life. He has since implemented a few practices to use Sabbath rest as soul care.
“I’m too busy to rest.”
As a culture, we have become proud of our busyness. We wear stress levels like badges and take pride in how many proverbial tabs we have open in our brains.
We aren’t great at quiet. So, we keep the quiet at bay.
We fill our homes and cars with unending soundbites – podcasts, music, 24/7 news reports, phone calls, and Facetimes.
Our thumbs and minds are busy with endless scrolling, inducing emotional whiplash.
The thought of being alone in silence brings anxiety to the hearts of many. We even convince ourselves we are too busy to rest.
To rest in the silence would mean neglecting the hustle.
Meanwhile, our marriages are falling apart, our mental health is declining, we’re burned out, our kids are miserable, and our bodies are struggling to keep up.
But what if the key to a fulfilled life is a break from productivity?
On our trip to Israel, Jon and I witnessed a miraculous event.
One moment, the streets were vibrant and bustling. The next moment, nothing.
A sudden quietness swept through the community. The streets were deserted. The shops were closed. For the next 24 hours, busyness and productivity would have to wait.
It was the beginning of Shabbat.
Shabbat is a holy day when Jews rest from their labors. In both Exodus and Leviticus, God commanded the Israelites to “remember” and “observe” the day to “keep it holy.”
To this day, Shabbat is honored with feasts and rest in the Jewish community. As a result, the hustle is replaced with words of blessing, time spent with family, and communion with God.
Shabbat is a small glimpse of what God intended for us. It’s an opportunity to participate in a miraculous event 52 times a year.
While we don’t live under Jewish law, this fourth commandment holds wisdom we should live by.
What does Sabbath rest look like?
Our hustle culture doesn’t lean into the idea of rest. Even when we try to rest, we can find ourselves at a loss on what to do. But that’s just the point – this is a time to stop doing.
But what does that mean?
The Hebrew word for Sabbath, shabbat, gives us the direction we need. Shabbat has four distinct meanings – four ingredients God uses to make rest.
What a gift. God is giving you permission, even commanding you, to just stop.
Stop checking your phone, stop ticking off your to-do list, stop your consumerism, stop all the work, and stop all the worry, anxiety, fear, and stress.
Linger with the Lord. And take it slow.
Sleep in. Or take a nap. Here, you can give your mind and heart time off.
This rest is not about making anything happen. It isn’t about an end goal or productivity.
This is about resting from the world and from life. God, after six days of laboring to create the world, rested.
This is your day to demonstrate that you trust in all God is doing, rather than all you are doing.
We spend so much time finding pleasure in our own pursuits. Use your sabbath to find pleasure in the Lord.
Spend time walking and talking with Him. Spend an extended amount of time in His Word. Talk about His goodness with your family and friends.
As Christians, we are worshiping every day, but Sabbath is a day set aside exclusively for worship.
Sabbath is a day to worship Him the moment you wake up (after you’ve slept in, of course) to the moment you lay down, and all the moments in between.
All that time you usually spend doing, can now be used in worship.
Soul Rhythms for Sabbath Rest
In his book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear adapted the words of Archilochus to say, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Like many other facets of our lives, finding rest benefits from putting a few systems in place to prioritize soul care.
365 days a year, Jon rolls out of his bed and onto his knees.
Starting his day communing with and confessing to God sets him on a path of humility and calm.
Next, one day a week: stop, rest, delight, worship.
Block it off in your schedule and fight to keep that day.
Then, four times a year, Jon takes a “soul care” day.
Go to a favorite spot and let your soul be guided by the Word to deal with what weighs you down – anxiety, forgiveness, anger.
Finally, one time a year, Jon challenges himself to a silent prayer retreat.
There are many organizations and churches who offer these retreats and they vary in length and style. Find one that works for you and face the fear of silence.
So, what’s holding you back from quiet, slow, soul-reviving Sabbath rest? This is your invitation to trust the Lord with your to-do list, with your goals, with your productivity and adopt a rhythm of stopping, resting, delighting, and worshiping.