The Importance of Sabbath

I learnt a very important lesson yesterday.

In terms of time spent working and studying, last week was somewhat busier than usual, and I somehow managed to spread everything out so that I didn’t have a single day off. I wasn’t too concerned about that when I was looking at my schedule last Monday, and I got to the end of it reasonably okay.

But then things fell apart yesterday morning, when a series of minor disasters, all of which could easily have been avoided if I’d been rested enough to have been properly on the ball, meant that I missed college.

I was really frustrated with myself, but on reflection I think it was just what I needed. The unexpected day off let me catch up on all the things I should have done on the day off I should have allowed myself last week, not least important of which was getting some proper rest.

It also reminded me of the need for regular downtime. Jenni Entrican spoke about this at my welcome service, and I promise I was listening, but I thought one busy week couldn’t hurt, and so I filled up my hours regardless.

The truth is that a lot of the time one busy week won’t hurt, and sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I think I needed this timely reminder that I need to take rest seriously and protect it as much as I can, or I could very easily have kept going and let Jenni’s words become nothing more than a nice idea.

I suspect we all need that reminder every now and then, because we all fill up the time and the energy we have, but we all need to rest and rest well, by which I mean without anxiety about what we could or should be doing.

Rest will likely mean something different for each of us, but that is why it is so important that we find out what it looks like for us, what it is that we need.

Sometimes that might mean saying no to things, even things we feel we need or want to say yes to. Sometimes it might mean making quite dramatic decisions, trusting that it is better to be well than to be busy. And sometimes it might mean learning new rhythms of rest, finding new ways of sustaining ourselves.

As the title of this blog post probably gave away, I couldn’t talk about rest without talking about sabbath.

In Exodus 31:15, just before he hands over the tablets of the covenant, God declares that “the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord”. And in Mark 2:27, when sabbath observance has become something of a drag, Jesus reminds his followers that “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”.

God tells us to build rest into the pattern of our lives, not because he wants to spoil our fun, but because he knows that it is what we need, in order to renew our minds and our bodies and our focus on him. That is why the day is not just good but holy.

And interestingly, when Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”, the Greek for ‘give rest’ is related to the Greek for ‘sabbath’, and it is also the root of our word ‘pause’.

Ultimately then, we find our sabbath in Jesus, as we walk with him and pause with him. And so I will end with some of the lyrics to a favourite song of mine, which you can also listen to if you click the link.

Come all you weary, come gather round near me, find rest for your souls.


Published by leighannegreenwood

Baptist minister in training with Revive Leeds. Blogging on behalf of Revive and (coming soon) for myself at Covenant Project.

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