by Alexa Hess
Our bodies cry out for rest every day. Even if we start our days fully caffeinated and with a burst of energy, we reach a point when our bodies slow down. Fatigue slowly wraps around us like a blanket until we are enveloped in weariness. In our weariness, rest feels out of reach as we have to continue our normal rhythms of work.
Thankfully, God gives us the gift of rest. In the Old Testament, God established the Sabbath as a dedicated time to stop from work, relax, and worship. This day would renew the bodies of God’s people but most importantly their souls. However, this rest pointed to the One who would provide not just a day of rest but an eternity of rest.
Our cry for rest is fulfilled in Christ. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we receive forgiveness that brings rest to our restless hearts. This inward rest points to eternity where we will experience the fullness of true Sabbath rest forever. But for now, we live in a broken world, and our bodies continue to be weary. Though the inward rest Christ gives us is available always, a weekly Sabbath creates an opportunity for intentional rest. Just as it was for the Israelites, Sabbath gives us a time to rest from work, relax our bodies, and renew our souls in worship to God. Here are three tips to help establish a weekly Sabbath.
Choose a day
When to take a Sabbath differs amongst believers. Some Christians believe Sabbath should be taken on Saturday since traditionally the Sabbath was celebrated on Saturday. Some believe Sabbath should be taken on Sunday since Sunday is considered the “Lord’s Day.” Other Christians believe there is freedom for Sabbath to be taken any day of the week because the Sabbath has been ultimately fulfilled in Christ. When we believe the Sabbath should be observed is a personal conviction, and there is room for us to hold different opinions to this as the body of Christ.
If you want to take a weekly Sabbath, you must choose a day for rest. If you are convicted that your day of rest should be Saturday or Sunday, great! If you desire to take a Sabbath on a different day than Saturday or Sunday, consider what day of the week allows you more flexibility for rest. You may have to clear some things from your calendar or say “no” to certain opportunities to create space for intentional rest. If taking a whole day is not feasible for you, you can set a dedicated amount of time for Sabbath rest. While a day of rest is ideal, the circumstances of our lives may not allow this to always be possible. However, we should make rest a regular rhythm in our lives, even if that rest is a period of time rather than a whole day.
Plan your rest
Planning what our Sabbath looks like helps us be intentional with our rest. If we don’t think through how we will rest, we may fill our time with what isn’t actually restful. In my own life, I find that if I’m not intentional about how I plan and take a Sabbath, I don’t end up truly resting. I may spend thirty minutes looking at my phone on my couch, but is that resting? My body may be resting but my heart and mind are not. So when you plan your Sabbath, consider these questions:
- What can I do that deepens my communion with God?
- What can I do that renews my joy?
- What can I do that helps my body (body, mind, and spirit) relax?
Ideally, a Sabbath would include all three aspects of these above questions. So, for example, maybe your day of rest starts with prayer and Bible reading, involves a walk in the park with your family, and ends with a meal shared with some people in your neighborhood.
Setting boundaries helps to keep Sabbath intentional and truly restful. In thinking through how to set boundaries, it is helpful to ask yourself what keeps you from taking a Sabbath or disrupts your Sabbath. If a weekly Sabbath is currently not part of your normal weekly schedule, why? If your day/time of rest doesn’t actually feel restful, why do you think that is? Then we can set some boundaries in light of the answers to these questions. If our work keeps us from resting, possible boundaries could include silencing email notifications or establishing an out-of-office message for those seeking to get in touch with you. If, like me, your phone keeps you from resting, some boundaries could be putting your phone away for a duration of time or letting others know that you are taking a phone break. Sometimes events and disruptions happen that are outside of our control, but we can still place boundaries around what we do have control over.
As you integrate these three tips into your schedule, you will establish a normal rhythm of Sabbath rest. And if you are interested in diving deeper into the topic of rest, check out our new study called Rest: from Eden to Eternity, which traces the theme of rest throughout Scripture.