In Search of Sabbath: I know what not to do...but what do I do?


Sabbath practice begins with stillness. I wrote about this last week after wrestling with how little scripture has to say about what to do for Sabbath. If you finished that post thinking, “But I still don’t know what to do!” Don’t worry, this is the post for you. We’re going to talk about some tangible ideas for pursuing Sabbath rest. A word of caution though before you read on, if you are one of those people who felt frustrated after last weeks post, I encourage you to hang out in the stillness a bit longer. 

Sabbath is for rest and refreshment

"[The Sabbath] will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” (Ex. 31:17). When God set the example of Sabbath, He used it for rest and refreshment. It’s that simple! Get some sleep. Stop working. Do something that makes you feel refreshed. It sounds simple, but it’s not. My guess is that most people fall in to one of two categories: either we aren’t good at sleep/rest and we know it, or we think we’re good at it, but we’re really not. Here are some ideas to try out for better sleep at night and better rest during the day (and by the way, better doesn’t necessarily mean more):

  • Your best sleep.

    • Create a sleep sanctuary. Splurge on some soft sheets, set the thermostat at a cooler temp, diffuse some lavender, etc.

    • If you didn’t already try this, plan a morning to sleep until you can’t sleep anymore. This is how I start my Sabbath each week.

    • Have a no electronics in the bedroom rule.

    • Read Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. It has tons of tangible ideas if you’re hoping to improve your sleep.

  • Your best rest.

    • Identify what you need rest from. Rest from work will look different depending on whether you work in a field or sit at a computer all day. That means rest for you could mean movement. Jared and I both end our weekly Sabbath practice by going to Crossfit because that provides a kind of rest from work that we need.

    • Assess how you rest. I used to turn on the TV whenever I felt like I needed to veg, only to find it further drained my motivation and kept me from actual restful activities, like sleep and boredom. I still watch TV, but I’ve identified the use of TV for me is entertainment or a shared experience (when I watch with someone), not rest.

  • Say no to something good. Oh dear. I said it. So much of our lack of rest is due to overbooking ourselves. That means we need to say no, but more than that, it means that we need to say no to good things. Because good things become bad if they prevent you from your much-needed rest.

Sabbath is an opportunity to find joy in your work

Before God rested, He looked at His creation, all of His hard work, and He said, "This is really good." (Gen. 1:31). Rest is good, but work is good too, and taking the time to rest helps us better appreciate and find joy in our hard work. How can you pause long enough to find joy in your work?

  • Start a gratitude journal. You need only to browse Pinterest for half a second before ideas for a gratitude journal pop up.

  • Word from the Lord. Jared and I try to have a “Word from the Lord” time together each week during which we take a few minutes to reflect on the past week. We share things that stood out or thoughts we had during our personal spiritual time. Many weeks we can’t think of anything at first, but as we start talking tons of things come out simply because we took a few minutes to reflect on them.

  • End every work day by writing down one good thing from the day.

Sabbath is giving "To God."

The phrase that kept popping up as I studied the Sabbath was "...a Sabbath to the Lord." What in the world does that mean? I keep coming back to the fallow ground image, the idea of stopping my own pursuits and handing them over to God for Him to bring up what He will from the land while I remain still. I kind of like the vagueness of "to the Lord." It's not specific about what goes to God, time, resources, action, etc. It's just a day "to God." That allows it to be a personal thing for each person. Here’s some things you could try:

  • Spend 5 minutes meditating

  • Go to church. If you don’t think you’d know how to practice anything spiritual on your own, don’t feel like you have to. I love Crossfit because I only need the motivation to get there. Once I’m there, my coach and fellow athletes get me through the rest. Church can be the same thing for you. All you need to do is walk through the door. Then let others lead you in the rest.

  • Practice tithing. This means giving your money. Yep, I went there. I’m talking about finances which is a big no no. Remember we talked about how Sabbath is a release, and one of the things we often hold tightly to is money, in particular our financial stability for the future. What would it look like for you to release your controlling grip and start to give it to God to bring up “whatever the land yields”? It’s OK to start small, but just start.

Sabbath is for rest and refreshment, an opportunity to find joy in your work, and a giving “to God.” How can you start practicing some of these things?

Stay tuned for next week’s In Search of Sabbath post: “It’s not all about you.” (PS – this is the one I’ve been most excited to write!)