The art of Sabbath is difficult for most pastors and church leaders today. In the hustle and bustle of the twenty first century, it’s easy to find yourself feeling like you’re always “on.” We know that taking a Sabbath is important, but preaching it and living it are two very different things.
In all reality, my friends and colleagues in ministry are some of the busiest and most exhausted people I know. How did we get here? Better yet, how do we get back to a rhythm of Sabbath and living a life to the full? The answers to these questions are not difficult to understand, but they are difficult to live out.
I struggle with Sabbath as much as anyone. I like to work and be productive. As an achiever at heart, stopping and resting are not things I do particularly well. However, like many of you I’m ready to get off the hamster wheel of business and anxiety. I’m still learning, but below you will find four ingredients that I’ve found necessary to sabbath-ing well. If you’re tired of the crazy pace and looking for a reprieve (or just know you need one), keep reading.
To explore the ingredients necessary for the making of a healthy Sabbath, we will be using the acrostic REST. Let’s take a look at each ingredient and some examples of how this might look in your life.
The first ingredient to healthy Sabbath is taking the time to replenish. Ministry is tough. Leading people can be difficult. Managing conflict is never fun. And all the work we do seems to run in an endless cycle of Sunday’s and Wednesday’s. Perhaps the greatest reason ministry is tough though is that ministry is all about pouring out.
Ministering to the people God has entrusted to us requires the pouring out of ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically. Here’s the problem though, if we always pour out into others and never take the time to fill back up, we are headed for empty. One the other side of empty you’ll find burnout and depression. Too many of us are running on or dangerously close to empty.
That’s why the first ingredient to a healthy Sabbath is to replenish and refill your cup. What are the things that replenish and refill you emotionally, spiritually, and physically? Begin by making a list of these things, and then do what it takes to make them a part of your Sabbath rhythm.
For me, replenishing takes on some of the following looks. Sleeping in replenishes me physically. Hitting the gym or reading a book helps me to replenish emotionally. Spiritual replenishment comes through reading scripture, taking times of solitude, or watching a sermon that someone else prepared for.
So what about you? What things replenish spiritually, emotionally, and physically? Make a list, and then make them a part of your Sabbath.
The second ingredient to a healthy Sabbath is enjoying yourself. While the items on this list may overlap at times with the things that replenish you, this is not always the case. Things that you enjoy will make you happy and energize you, but can also require an expenditure of emotional or physical energy. These things may not look like rest traditionally, but they help tend to the health of your soul.
For some this comes easy, while others may find it more difficult. Often times, I find that pastors and church leaders struggle to find and keep healthy hobbies. Why? I believe many of us feel almost guilty for stopping and enjoying ourselves when there is so much Kingdom work to be done. However, if we don’t learn to stop and enjoy ourselves, we will become far less effective for the Kingdom in the long run.
It’s vital to find the right things to put on your Sabbath enjoyment list. If your struggling, here are a few of mine: golfing, kayaking, watching movies, amusement parks, and spending a day with my family. Some of these can leave me physically or mentally tired, but they definitely fill my cup and energize my soul.
So what about you? What energizes you and should be on your Sabbath enjoyment list? Take some time to think about this and write them down. Learning to enjoy yourself is a vital part of a healthy Sabbath.
This one is simple in theory and excruciating in practice. I don’t believe taking a Sabbath means being legalistic about doing nothing. However, I do believe it requires us to stop doing the things we regularly do for work and ministry. What good does it do you to replenish yourself with rest and a day of things you enjoy if you check your email and respond to texts regarding ministry all day?
To be fully transparent, this is the most difficult part for me. Unplugging completely and ceasing to do the work of ministry is a struggle. But if I don’t learn to stop the work of ministry, I’ll never be able to experience rest.
So what does it mean to stop? Simply put, on your Sabbath you cease doing all things that are a part of your daily ministry. Stop checking email, returning phone calls, writing sermons, and thinking about the ministry problem you just can’t seem to solve. This may sound crazy, but I promise all of those things will still be there tomorrow.
If you’re like me though, you may want to attempt to Sabbath while keeping your toes in the water of ministry. The problem is that’s incompatible with Sabbath. Why? When we can’t stop the work of ministry, it’s because we can’t trust God to get it done without us. Which brings us to the last ingredient.
If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you love God deeply and want others to experience His love. You were called to give your life to ministry, and you love helping people. These are great and Godly things that only the Holy Spirit can write into you story. However, be careful that you don’t pursue your calling to the point of forgetting your faith.
Faith is where it started. We put our faith in God’s love and the gift of His Son, and we’ve never been the same. The same faith that made us come alive though is the same faith we need to sustain us. God didn’t call us to trust him only at salvation, but throughout our days. And it is this faith, this trust, that is at the heart of true Sabbath.
If God is strong enough to save us and create the universe, then He’s strong enough to continue His work without us for a day. If He is wise enough to lead us daily, then He is wise enough to keep leading while we take a day off. When we stop, replenish, and enjoy ourselves one day a week, it actually builds our faith and honors God!
On the flip side, when we can’t take a day off and practice the art of Sabbath it is because we don’t fully trust Him. Our inability to Sabbath is at its heart a trust issue. Nothing more and nothing less.
If you’ve read this article with a desire to Sabbath but an internal doubt that you can, please let me encourage you. You can Sabbath well, because you can trust God. When you take the time to Sabbath, He will come through for you again like He has so many times before.
So what are you waiting for? Will you be willing to take the step of faith to insert a healthy Sabbath rhythm in to your life and ministry? I pray the answer is “yes.” As you take the Sabbath ingredients of replenishment, enjoyment, stopping, and trust, I pray God fills your sails with new wind and new life. Amen.