Are you exhausted? Stressed? Trying to keep all the balls in the air?
God offers rest. He wants it for us. He invented it from the beginning of the world: “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.” (Genesis 2:2–3).
Ferris Bueller didn’t invent the day off.
And He invites us to take advantage of it. God feels so strongly about us taking time to rest that He made it one of the Ten Commandments:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
God didn’t create the Sabbath because He needed a rest. He’s God. He doesn’t get tired. God asks us to take a day off every week so He can restore us. Like all of God’s commands, this one is for our good. He blessed this day. Why? Because God is our Good Shepherd, and He leads us to still waters.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. (Psalm 23:2–3, emphasis added)
Why does God have to make us lie down?
Because we’re dumb sheep, who left to our own devices either forget or refuse to do it ourselves.
I knew that word back in Sunday school, but I never thought about what it meant to practice it. And, yes, Sabbath takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s like riding a bike in a field. Freeing. Peaceful. Restorative. Fun.
For decades my idea of Sabbath was going to church on Sundays. I’m pretty sure God grins when He sees His people gathering. But Sabbath is more than that. It’s taking our to-dos, our work—whatever that is—and handing it over to God, saying, “I believe You are who You say you are. I believe that You are all-powerful and that You can get anything done—anything You need accomplished—whether or not I work today. I believe that when you ask me to take a break, it’s for a good reason. I believe that You’re able to keep the world spinning, my company running, my family fed, if that’s your desire, even if I take a day off.”
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (v. 1)
What defines work? What do you need to take a day off from?
That’s between you and God.
For me, Sabbath means no writing, speaking, or Bible teaching work. This is tricky because I’m a Christian storyteller, so reading the Bible or listening to a sermon might give me some work ideas or help me clarify something I’m working on. I have to set up some pretty specific boundaries. My email, social media, and work planner are off-limits on Sundays. I might read, but nothing Bible-y—perhaps a novel set in a lavender field in France. If God gives me a clever idea, I do not open my laptop but instead jot the idea on a sticky note, open the door to my writing nook (which I keep closed on Sundays), stick that note on my laptop, and quickly exit. I don’t ignore the idea, but set it aside, trusting God to help me pick it up on Monday.
For you this could look totally different.
Making dinner drains one of my friends, so she never cooks on her Sabbath. For me, cooking when I have time (versus frantically throwing together things in the kitchen in a time crunch) is luxurious. One Sunday my daughter and I turned on French café music—accordions accompanied by the brush of cymbals—and spent over two hours shredding sharp Gruyère, slicing thick chunks of baguette, and dancing around the kitchen preparing a fondue feast for our family. It was a blast, and nothing about it resembled work.
You know which things consume you maybe a bit too much.
If you’re spinning so fast in your whirlwind that you don’t know what you need a Sabbath from, stop right now. Ask God where you need to s-l-o-w down, what you need to hand over, what you should be taking a Sabbath from.
What day makes the most sense for you to hand it all over to Him? What day can you turn off your phone or your alarm clock or your washer and dryer? There is one. I promise. God designed work, and He created us to be His coworkers (Genesis 2:15; 1 Corinthians 3:9). But He designed work to be completed in six days. Trust Him on this.
It’s so hard to let go for an entire day. Especially of the things we’re trying to control.
I hear you.
When I started practicing Sabbath, I frequently picked up my phone by instinct. Someone emailed me—shouldn’t I email them back? I didn’t get much work accomplished Thursday because of the field trip I chaperoned, so couldn’t I sneak back some time now?
God doesn’t want us to be legalistic about this. If you have a mandatory meeting on your scheduled Sabbath, He’s totally cool with you flipping days that week. But God is smarter than us. And He sees right through our excuses. Be honest with Him. Not for God’s sake. Remember, He doesn’t need you to rest. This is for you. The Shepherd doesn’t get anything out of His sheep sipping cool water and grazing on the greenest grass except happier sheep.
Get that? God wants goodness for us.
Jesus put it this way: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 nlt).
God created the Sabbath for us! He made it so we would be fulfilled—so our needs of rest and restoration would be met. It’s real. It works. This beautiful thing God designed for us when He created the universe actually restores our soul.
Sabbath has become my favorite day of the week.
Why? Because I exhale. I’m not rushing from church to the next and the next. I take a slow sip of my mocha and savor the froth, let it tickle my tongue. I’m an introvert, so introverted things refuel my tank. I journal. I call my mom or a friend and can be fully present for the conversation because I’m not trying to do anything else. Sometimes I’ll pull out my acrylics and paint, or maybe I’ll write a couple of cards to friends. I’ll go for a walk with my kids or sit and read a book—and not just a snippet but an actual chapter or two or five if the day permits. I’ll paint my fingernails and toes in candy-colored shades that make me smile.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)
If you’re an extrovert, you’ll refuel differently. Maybe visiting with friends over a bonfire in your backyard or a game night. You know the things that restore you.
I see my green pasture—a field, and at the far end the bending arms of a giant willow tree, her branches dangling like beaded curtains to hide behind, her trunk an inviting throne to lean against while I listen to the bees buzzing among the fragrant, lacy white flowers. I spot a bumpy toad bouncing along a dusty patch of ground. I close my eyes and let the wind whisper across my face.
Can you picture your green pasture now? Imagine the sound of your quiet water nearby—the trickle of a stream, the rush of waves, the silence of a pond. Linger there.
This is what God offers us with Sabbath. Peace. Restoration. It might take several weeks or months or iterations of practicing Sabbath, of really letting go of some things, of releasing yourself to the rest God intended when He created the Sabbath. It was never meant as something for you to check off your list or as something God would be angry about if you didn’t do or didn’t do “correctly.” God’s not evaluating you on how you take Sabbath; He’s inviting you into it. It was always meant as a gift. Receive it. Relish it.
At my field in my mind, I stay. As long as I like. Then I pop on my bike that I leaned against the other side of the tree and pedal home in the warm summer air. I bump bump over twigs and ruts, my hair blowing back behind me as I ride. I am free. My soul is restored.
Yours can be too.
This article is an excerpt of Restore My Soul: The Power and Promise of 30 Psalms used with permission[Text Wrapping Break]from Our Daily Bread Publishing. © 2022 by Laura L. Smith All rights reserved.
Laura L. Smith is a popular speaker and best-selling author, Smith speaks around the country sharing the love of Christ with women at conferences and events. She lives in the college town of Oxford, Ohio, with her husband and four kids. Learn more about her at: www.laurasmithauthor.com