Every now and then I get to take a day for worship—but not often. What I do get is something that I make every effort to take—and that is a Sabbath rest. A Sabbath rest is a period of time set aside in a secluded place to meet with and refresh your commitment to and your enjoyment in the Lord.
The hardest part of Sabbath is not what you think it might be. Like you, I’m busy with more than enough to do. The hardest parts are focus and attention. Which is precisely why we need Sabbath rest and why God gave them to us.
William Wordsworth diagnosed one of our most serious, ongoing problems when he said, “The world is too much with us.” I’m confident that today’s world is more with you and me more than it was with Him. He never had a smart phone. Enough said.
What I’ve come to see is that one of the greatest struggles I face is distraction, the great enemy of attention and focus. With the world of people and things, global problems and pandemics always at my finger tips and before my eyes, my mind is easily lost to the greater things, the deeper things—the things of God and His Spirit. And the bigger the world gets, the smaller God seems to be. I get lost to myself. I lose sight of Him. Because what we fix our eyes on, we follow, you can see that such a condition never works to the advantage of followers of Jesus.
Now, it is true that my daily quiet times mitigate this loss of sight. But I’ve found that they are not quite enough. I need a Sabbath. I need a day that seems antiquated and impossible. I need a “day of rest.”
Gordon MacDonald’s little book, Ordering Your Private World, first opened my eyes to this need. And it has helped me with my practice of Sabbath rest for decades now. One of the goals of Sabbath, what I call MacDonald’s law, is that Sabbath happens when we move from thinking about “the world of creation to the creation of the world.” It is moving from fixation on the stuff of everyday life to the One Who creates it, controls it, and ultimately gives it all meaning. We can get so busy with the “what” of things that we lose the “why” of life. That’s my problem and that’s probably yours, too. The net result is that life becomes fragmented. It feels to me like my soul has lost track of my body—and needs to catch up. As you might imagine, this lack of personal integration can mean a lapse of integrity. So when it happens, it is serious. And Sabbath rest is God’s gift and cure for it.
Once done, I pause to pray. I thank God for enabling the faithfulness I found. I thank Him for the growth in grace I see. I ask His forgiveness for the sin I discovered. I make plans with Him to make wrongs right. Confessing my sin to Him, I ask Him to help me realign my love and faithfulness so that I am walking aligned with Him in that area. Sometimes this takes awhile. Sometimes it takes twenty to thirty minutes. It doesn’t matter because I’m resting from everything else and focusing on Him and me before Him. It is good. It is cleansing. He is faithful. Slowly I begin to sense my spirit catching up with the rest of me.
Like the great, godly champion of freedom and opponent of slavery, William Wilberforce, I can say that “the Sabbath is the cure.”
You may not be able to take a full day. I don’t. But if you can take two hours on a Saturday, especially in the morning when nobody wants you or is looking for you, you’ll find the One who is the only true cure for the weary heart.