Christianity 201

September 13, 2010

Some Monday Thoughts on Sabbath Rest

This is from Stanley Groothof who blogs from British Columbia (BC) Canada at the blog, The 4th Point.   It was written mid-July…

My family recently returned home from a sunny, week-long vacation at Lakelse Lake Provincial Park near Terrace BC. Once again I experienced how resting can be hard work.  It does not come naturally to me.  I might step out of the office and leave the building, but I’ll still take my work with me in my mind – thinking over sermons, wondering about particular people, planning meetings and ministries.  My body might be out of town, but sometimes it takes two or three days before my brain begins its vacation.  And often a day or two before our scheduled return, my brain already begins thinking it’s back in the office.  Just because we say we’re resting or just because it looks like we’re resting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are!

Taking a break is not easy.  It means letting go, and I have a hard time doing that.  I want to stay involved (read: I don’t want to be out of the loop and/or not in control).  I want to be continually productive (read: I don’t want to disappoint people who might get the impression I’m lazy).

Nevertheless God tells me and you to take a break, to engage in Sabbath rest.  In His mercy, He does not want to watch us burn out, even if it’s by doing good and worthwhile things.  Our physical and emotional health is important to God.

But I think even more importantly, in telling me to rest, God is inviting me to trust.  He reminds me that the world will not spin off its axis if I take a break.  In her book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn speaks of God’s Sabbath invitation to rely on Him, to “let God be God in our lives” (p. 29).  Sabbath rest teaches me to recognize when and where I am trying too hard on my own to secure my future without trusting God or sensing His presence.  Rest keeps things in perspective.

I like Mark Buchanan’s double definition of Sabbath.  In The Rest of God, he has the familiar definition that it is a day, typically Sunday in the Protestant tradition.  But he also defines Sabbath as an attitude:

A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval.  It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling.  It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea.

You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart. (p. 4)

It doesn’t come naturally (spiritual disciplines typically don’t), but part of trusting God means resting, observing Sabbath – Sabbath moments, Sabbath days, Sabbath seasons.  It lets God be God.  And it helps me be better at being the me God wants me to be.

…Read more about sabbath:  Our graphic (above) is from an article on this subject at Sweet Tea Theology.


  1. Thanks for re-posting this, Paul! I’m glad it blessed you. Stanley

    Comment by SjG — September 13, 2010 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  2. How true it is. We cannot rest, because we refuse to rest until all the “i”s are dotted and the “t”s are crossed. We fear the messiness of a life without an organizer, even for one single day.
    Last night, during Monday night football, I saw an advertisement that speaks to this issue. It was about working the weekend. In our “do more with less” culture, the more is the work and the less is the people, and way too many people do work the weekend, and the nights, and the holidays, with no rest at all in sight. It is supposed to be somehow morally superior to be completely consumed by fruitful activity, and multi-tasking is an expectation we don’t hesitate to lay on children as well as adults.
    I remember applying for a job in technology for which my application was rejected. My skills were more than adequate for the job. In fact, I had skills that overlapped skills for two other jobs in the department, and that was the problem. Those other two employees had not had a vacation in three years, because each was saddled with 24/7 responsibilities, and neither had anyone to relieve her. I had the skills to relieve both of them, and both of them had skills to relieve me. During my interview, I was asked what unique quality I could bring to the organization, and I said that I was prepared to plan and execute a scheduling option that gave each of us every third weekend off, utilizing our abilities to relieve each other. I was rejected from consideration, because I lacked a passion for the work. Clearly the idea of planning for rest was anathema.
    It points up the challenge of observing anything like Sabbath in our society. Planning for a time of rest and refreshment ought not to be viewed as a moral deficiency.

    Comment by Katherine Harms — September 14, 2010 @ 8:14 am | Reply

  3. Thank you for pinging my blog, and thank you for allowing me to share your beautiful artwork.

    Comment by Karen — September 14, 2010 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

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