“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. —Exodus 20:8-11
Like most of God’s commandments and rules, the fourth commandment to take a Sabbath rest is for our good and His glory. I think most of us forget about that for our good part. The Sabbath is not a restriction on our lives, as I was recently reminded by Matthew Sleeth’s book, 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life (Tyndale House Publishers, 2012). “Rest” does not mean “let your co-workers get ahead of you by working one less day than them”; “Rest” is God saying, “I love you. Enjoy me and the rich life you have in me.”
God is often so practical. From Sleeth’s book, here are six ways that the Sabbath gives us rest for our practical good.
1. Rest from Being Hurt
We know that when we injure our bodies, it takes time for those injuries to heal. They need to rest. So it is with our souls, Sleeth says. For those of us who have suffered tragedies and sorrows in this life (and who hasn’t?) we need time to process, to pour out our hearts to the Lord, otherwise we’ll be just like a knee injury that never had time to heal—it’ll keep tripping us up as we go along in life.
2. Rest from Heavy Labors
Introverts will understand this one right away. We all need rest from what tires us, whether it’s a job on the construction site or the social energy expended all week. “When we rest, our blood pressure falls and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol decline,” Sleeth writes. “If we are to treat our bodies as temples, we must allow time for physical, mental, and spiritual recovery from the labors of the week.”
3. Rest from the Pace of the World
Sometimes science uncovers evidence for why God’s commands are good. Sleeth notes that in the cities where people on the streets walk faster, there are “higher incidences of coronary artery disease.” It’s just more proof that God wants what is good for us. “Slow down,” He says. “You just might live longer.”
4. Rest from the Speed of Change
One of the biggest interruptions to my rest is my smartphone. Text buzzes wake me up from afternoon naps; e-mail senders expect immediate answers when I’m reading the Bible. And it adds up to make me (and I don’t think I’m alone here) more frantic and tired. Turning off the technology on the Sabbath might be what we all need to really slow down.
5. Rest from the Job
When I was breaking into journalism, I faced few job options because of the recession. So I took every little job I could and worked round the clock. Now, the recession is over, but we all still feel the need to work round the clock to keep our jobs or to advance in our careers. But as Sleeth reminds us, “[r]esting is even more necessary in uncertain times. It helps us remember that God is in control and that our identity is not dependent on the work we do.” Whew. Amen.
6. Rest from Information
I learned first-hand why we need rest from our chronic information overload recently. I was confused as to how I was supposed to help my newborn sleep. Let him cry it out? Rock him to sleep on my shoulder? Sing lullabies? Use white-noise machines? I Googled the heck out of the Internet to see what the right answer was and became paralyzed by all the camps for and against each option. It wasn’t until I sat down and studied my own child—and not the smartphone in my hand—that I figured out my son’s sleep patterns and needs. Sleeth says that when we take a rest from all the information dumping that happens online we are better able to make wise decisions.
And as always, it all comes back to Jesus. Sleeth writes:
Jesus calls out to us in this 24/7 world of constant change and says, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). In learning how to rest, we actually gain knowledge of Christ. We learn to be gentle and humble and to give up our pride.”
This list is only a start. How does rest benefit you?
Lindsey M. Roberts is the editor of the All About Jesus blog. After seven years in secular journalism, she is thrilled to explore how everything—even doing the dishes—is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband and newborn son in Virginia.