Back in 2016, I felt like my world was falling apart. I labored to prepare extravagant gospel feasts for others, while personally attempting to live off the crumbs. I worked more for Jesus than with Jesus. I was miserable.
That's when I discovered the second step toward spiritual and emotional stability — a weekly sabbath.
What is Sabbath?
What comes to mind about God when you think about the book of Leviticus? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Stingy, angry law-giver."
Yet Leviticus teaches us that we serve a party-planning, joy-filled God.
It took seven short weeks after the Exodus for Israel to forget God's goodness.
“Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” - Exodus 16:3
Knowing our propensity to forget His goodness, God commands His people to party seven times a year to remember (Leviticus 23).
Did you catch that? God creates a rule of life for Israel to help them enjoy Him and His good gifts.
At its core, to sabbath means to cease work, but it's so much more than that.
The heartbeat of sabbath is God's desire for you to find joy in Him. Interrupt paid and unpaid work with twenty-four hours of rest-filled activities that help us delight in Jesus and His provision. (See discussion on paid and unpaid work in Pete Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Leader, 147)
Friends, we serve a happy God who smiles when we smile.
What are the benefits of a Sabbath?
We learn enjoyment. As we say around our house, there are six days for sorrow, today we choose joy. Think that's disingenuous? The Bible commands us to "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). A sabbath communicates God's love through His command to dedicate an entire day to enjoyment. What a Father!
We cultivate humility. If our limitless God rested on the seventh day to enjoy His work, why do we think we can work nonstop? A sabbath reminds us we're not machines but have limits (Exodus 20:8-11).
We gain refreshment. We've all experienced this. We're beat after a long day, and a meal with friends wakes us up to joy. A sabbath positions us for refreshment (Exodus 23:12).
We taste freedom. Israel worked seven days a week under Pharaoh's whip. Jesus holds no whip; He offers an easy yoke (Matthew 11:29-30). A sabbath announces you're no longer a slave but free (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
We laugh at our imperfection. Pausing work reminds us we can't get it all done. Only God finishes His to-do list each day. A sabbath confirms you're a sojourner who is in process (Hebrews 4:8-11).
We hide our life in Jesus. Could it be that Jesus healed so often on the sabbath to show us that some healing only comes through rest? (See John Mark Comer, Garden City, 227-229) A sabbath submits your life in dependence on Christ reaffirming Christ is your life (Mark 2:27-28; Colossians 3:4).
How do you plan a sabbath?
Since a sabbath is twenty-four hours to delight in Jesus and His good gifts, three questions will suffice to plan a sabbath:
What day will I take a sabbath? (twenty-four hours)
What activities will lead me to worship? (to delight in Jesus)
What activities will lead to my refreshment? (and His good gifts)
Don't be surprised when challenging feelings pop up on your sabbath (like sadness, guilt, anxiety).
Prepare to try, fail, tweak, try again, partially succeed, repeat. Defining rest for you and yours takes time.
Finally, be patient. Some benefits come quick, but the long term fruit takes years of sabbath practice.
What activities help you delight in Jesus and His good gifts?
Ceasing physical work doesn't mean your mind stops. This leads us to the third step towards spiritual and emotional stability — sit in stillness.
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