Then Jesus said, "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest." There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat. (Mark 6:31)
"I just don't have enough time!" Maybe you've thought or said these words in exasperation or despair. Maybe, as a spiritually committed person, you are trying to remember that we all have our limits ... and yet the demands seem so great.
Juliet Schor, economist and author of The Overworked American, reported that work hours and stress levels are going up, and that we are sleeping less and spending less time with our families. And, Schor adds, we feel there is no way out.
Then we go to church, where at least for a couple of hours we won't be given more responsibilities or more guilt. The sermon is on Sabbath — how we yearn for it, and how impoverished we are for not having it in our lives. The minister reminds us that Sabbath stood at the very heart of Judaism, but that it is also available to Christians, even though we're no longer under the old Law.
The practice of Sabbath rest — six days of work, followed by one of rest — is woven into the fabric of the Bible. Before we go on, please understand that I'm not saying that all of Jesus' followers need to stop worshipping God on Sunday and worship on Saturday. Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath and we know that God blessed the Sabbath as a day set aside for rest and refocusing on God's glory, deliverance, and holiness. Scripture teaches that a "Sabbath-rest" for the people of God exists — and that entry can be given to those who need rest from their own work.
What about when Satan's snares, the cares of this world, worries over the souls of loved ones, personal sins and weaknesses seek to rob one of the joys of Jesus' companionship on the journey? How can one gain the strength for the battle, moment by moment?
I want to give you an honest answer. I'm hoping that you will find bread for the journey and refreshing springs of water to quench your thirst while you worship the "Fount of Every Blessing" — Jesus our Lord and best friend. Here is what I believe is true about Sabbath:
Refreshment of my faith is a gift that Jesus gives when I try to encourage, teach, mentor, or help someone else. The one who gives from the heart receives to the heart.
Refreshment doesn't come in packages labeled "two weeks," "one month," "four days," "a long week-end." Almost always the length, location and tone are designed by the Master Architect, not me.
God, in Christ, usually gives me Sabbath rest connected to some level of human reconciliation.
I would enjoy hearing from you. Tell me, how has Sabbath been a blessing in your life? Or is it still out there, belonging to someone else, and having never stopped at your house?
Some of us think we can squeeze in some Sabbath time if we can just go off to be by ourselves. We think, "Just let the world go on for today, no media, no noise, and let me think on Sabbath and I'll be happier." This may be true. I write about this because of the lives that I see — lives overwhelmed by other people, but which seem balanced, peaceful, and engaged with the world.
Hurry, we must leave. I must catch them and listen to what they have to say about the tension between stress and being properly engaged with the world.