Believers hear a lot about the importance of a Sabbath in their lives. In today’s busy world, it can be hard to find the time for the Sabbath, especially if you don’t understand just how helpful it can be.
Sabbath goes beyond following a rule outlined in the Bible. It is a principle for wellness and a relationship with God. Even this, however, isn’t enough for many people. The reality is that implementing a Sabbath often feels impossible. But you can make a weekly Sabbath part of your life. But first, you need to understand it.
What is Sabbath?
The concept many are most familiar with is first introduced early in Genesis when the Bible describes creation. After the Bible describes the creation of the heavens and the earth, night and day, waters and sky, vegetation, sun and moon, sea creatures and birds, land animals, and finally man, all of creation is declared to be good. (Genesis 1)
The first six days described are full of life, creation, and work. As we continue, something different happens:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. – Genesis 2:2-3, NIV
This is the first time we see the concept of the Sabbath in the Bible though it isn’t called that. It is simply God modeling the rhythm of work and rest. The very first idea of the Sabbath wasn’t introduced with rules dictated by God. It was modeled for us in the work and the rest of God.
Since most people are reading translations of the Bible, it can be hard to understand concepts as they were written. The original Hebrew has two meanings for rest:
- shabbat: to stop working. This is simply the time when you no longer do work.
- nuakh: to dwell or settle. This is similar to spending quality time with someone.
Both of these meanings are woven together throughout Scripture to describe Sabbath. There are times when God calls us to simply stop doing work and times when He calls us to dwell, enjoy time with Him, or be settled. Both of these meanings are included.
As we see the story of Scripture unfold, we learn more about the concept of rest. In the old testament, people repeatedly rejected the model God demonstrated for them. Even as the people strayed from the rhythm God designed for them of balancing work and rest, God continues to call His people to make time to stop doing work, but perhaps more importantly, to dwell with Him and in the beauty of the life with which they are blessed.
Sabbath is both a rest from your work and a rest in your soul to dwell with God and find contentment in your life.
Why is Sabbath important?
While the idea of the Sabbath in the Old Testament is seen, it feels like things shift when Jesus is in the picture. In the New Testament, Jesus makes the importance of the Sabbath clear for believers. Jesus starts by identifying the need for physical rest and time with God. He makes it clear that this is something people attain through Him.
Missy Takano of the Bible Project says:
“Jesus reminds the people of God’s original intention for the Sabbath: unity with God, creation, and each other. Jesus teaches that the Sabbath points to him, the one Israel’s prophets promised would come to mercifully restore the rhythm of all creation.
When followers of Jesus observe the Sabbath, we live as if this restoration has already taken place. We take a break from the broken rhythms of hustle and hardship to set aside time to honor Jesus’ rule, enjoy his presence, and extend rest to the world around us. When we trust God’s invitation to come to him and truly rest, we become places where his presence can dwell.”
Sabbath enables you to know and trust God fully. It is an opportunity to connect with Him and rest in His power instead of trying to make it in your power. It isn’t about following a law outlined in the Old Testament. It is about trusting in the redemption and power of Jesus in your life.
When you understand this difference, you are free from the stress of following rules. Instead, you can come to know the fullness of God.
How to implement the Sabbath in your busy life.
As you begin to understand that Sabbath is not about strict rules, you may be wondering what it should look like in your life and how to implement it. The best place to start is by asking God.
Pray about and decide what the Sabbath is for you.
Start by talking to God about Sabbath in your life. Ask Him what it looks like, what the purpose is, and how to make it happen. This step is the foundation for how you build Sabbath into your busy life. Talk to Him about it. Jesus tells you to come to Him and He promises to show you how to work and rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
As God shows you more about rest, make clear guidelines to help you implement Sabbath in your life. Think about what you will and will not do as you set aside time to stop work and dwell with God.
Decide when your Sabbath will be.
Many people consider Sunday to be Sabbath. They use that day to go to church, rest, and spend time with family or friends. Other people use Saturday as their Sabbath. Consider what works best for you.
No matter when you decide to have a weekly Sabbath, be consistent about setting aside that time. You can even set aside time in your day for Sabbath, a break from work, and time to dwell with God.
Think about what you need to do ahead of time or save for later.
This is often forgotten when incorporating Sabbath, and it is often the reason people miss out on the rest of the Sabbath.
There are things you may need to do before your Sabbath time so you can truly rest. Sometimes you need to choose to save things for another day to fully engage in Sabbath. If you think about this ahead of time, you are more likely to be fully engaged in your Sabbath without feeling like you have to do other things.
Tell someone you trust for accountability.
Starting any new routine can be hard, and Sabbath is no different. Telling a friend or family member about your goal can help you stick to it and follow through. Even talking about it tells your brain that this is something you are doing. Use this to help you follow through with your commitment to incorporate Sabbath in your life.
Commit for at least six weeks.
New habits take time. As you create your new rhythm of Sabbath in your life, commit to following it for at least six weeks. This will give you time to go beyond the challenges and experience more of God.
Implementing a Sabbath is a new endeavor that feels challenging for many people. A counselor can help you understand how to make Sabbath a regular part of your life and offer accountability for your journey. Connect with one of the counselors at Rowlett Christian Counseling to get started today.
“Morning Coffee”, Courtesy of Ivana Cajina, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Grassy Hill”, Courtesy of Janosch Lino, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Rail”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Sitting on the Beach”, Courtesy of Pan Xiaozhen, Unsplash.com, CC0 License