Can Sabbath Truly Be Restful?

A friend of mine, Andy, once went on a vacation to Cancun after his first year of medical residency. It was a long awaited and much needed trip. Yet, even as he sat by the beautiful ocean with a glass of margarita in his hand he still found his mind ceaselessly thinking about life back home. He didn’t know how to turn the switch off. He was restless. 

One of my professors from seminary once described his own sense of restlessness in this way: “On some nights I lay awake in my bed, unable to sleep, baby-sitting the world.” Genuine rest is hard to find. Have you noticed this? Unfortunately, rest is not something we can consume from a vending machine. Sadly, even Amazon Prime cannot deliver rest to our souls. So, where can we turn to for rest? 

Scripture suggests that we turn to God in our search for genuine rest. According to Genesis 1, God created the world crafting it with beauty for six days and on the seventh day he rested. Walter Bruggemann, a Christian theologian and author, reminds us; “God did not come and check on creation in anxiety to be sure it was all working.” Then, in Exodus 20, God commanded Moses and the Israelites to keep the day of Sabbath — to intentionally build rhythms of rest into their lives just as he did. Notice this is a commandment, not an invitation. God isn’t merely encouraging us to slow down a bit. By creating rhythms of rest into our lives, he is demanding that we learn to cease from our duties and responsibilities. 

The practice of Sabbath may seem like a luxury to many of us who are juggling endless demands of life. After all, who will take care of our duties and responsibilities – school, work, parenting, marriage, and retirement plans – while we rest? Like my friend, Andy, our anxious minds may be accustomed to laboring. 

St. Augustine once said, “You have created us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” He suggests that the antidote for our shared experience of restlessness is union with God. By calling us to create rhythms of rest into our lives, God is reminding us of the very reason for which he created us: he made us in love, for love. Sabbath is neither a recreational activity nor a practice for self-improvement. Instead, Sabbath is a gift of time in which we learn to celebrate our humanity as well as our desperate need for God’s grace. On Sabbath we can cease from our attempts to be our own gods and saviors. We can look at our shortcomings with honesty and trust that God is taking care of the world. 

Thanks be to God for he doesn’t expect us to babysit the world! Sleep well, friends. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are the duties and responsibilities that make you restless? (i.e. work, parenting, finance management , marriage, etc.) 
  2. How might God’s grace and call to Sabbath change the way you approach your duties and responsibilities?
  3. If you were to create a rhythm of Sabbath in your life, what would it look like?: 
    • When might you rest? (ex: 15-30 minutes of daily break, a half-day or a full day out of your week, a monthly retreat, or…?)
    • How will you rest? (ex: doing a devotional, Going on a silent walk, reading in the morning, an afternoon nap, working on a creative project, or…?)

Sabbath is our Deepening Practice for the beginning of Ordinary Time. To find out more about our Deepening Practices, you can read about them in the Granite Springs App or sign up for the Deepening Practices email list.

1 thought on “Can Sabbath Truly Be Restful?”

  1. The image of “babysitting the world” really resonated with me—a wake up call that reminded me that God is in charge of this world, not me. Thanks for the reminder to rest in God’s care of the world and of me.

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