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The Weekly Word: Slowing down in a culture that doesn’t know how to stop

By Joseph Nepodal, Assistant Pastor, The Bridge Church

When is the last time you had a day of rest?

If you’re like me, finding a day to rest, refresh and relax each week is a monumental task. There’s nothing in our world and in our culture that encourages us to take a day off. News cycles are 24/7. Our smart phones make us constantly available to call, text, or email. Our days are full of work and our evenings are full of activities.

None of these things are necessarily bad, but they all tend to keep us from taking a day off. Even if we do get a day off, we’re tempted to fill it with work around the house, trips to the grocery store, and any number of other tasks or chores.

With our lives moving at such an incredible pace, I believe the Sabbath is more relevant now than ever.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10a)

This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. It introduces the idea of a Sabbath, by telling us that we have 6 days each week to complete our work, but that the 7th day is to be set aside for rest.

But why do we need a Sabbath?

Science has shown what the results of our always-on, always-working culture leads to. People are getting burnt out. Anxiety and depression are at all-time highs in our society.

In his book, “24/6,” Dr. Matthew Sleeth talks about the numerous health benefits that come from taking a day off. Not only does a Sabbath allow your body time to recover, but rest also has mental, emotional and spiritual benefits as well.

For the Israelites who first heard this commandment, the Sabbath took place every Saturday. During their Sabbath, they were not allowed to work, travel great distances, harvest crops, do sacrifices, or even help a neighbor in need.

By the time of Jesus, the Sabbath had become more about what the Jewish people couldn’t do rather than what the Sabbath freed them to do. They had forgotten the original purpose of the Sabbath. It had become more about following rules than resting in God.

Jesus called out this hypocrisy when he said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

I think that’s why we don’t practice the Sabbath today. It feels more like putting constraints on what we can do rather than freeing us up. Don’t get me wrong, you might need to give some things up, but the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits far outweigh the cost.

So what does Sabbath look like for you? Probably different than it does for me.

First, pick a day of the week you don’t have to work. For me, it has to be Saturday because that’s my only day off. If you work on the weekends, it’ll need to be another day.

Second, plan ahead! You won’t be intentional with your Sabbath if you don’t prepare. When you get to it, you’ll realize all the groceries you need to buy and the chores you didn’t do and you’ll end up working instead of resting.

Finally, try to incorporate these three elements into your day of rest: 1) A devotional or time of worship, 2) Something fun that you/your family enjoy 3) A good meal. These three things can do wonders for your Sabbath.

I hope this encourages you to take a Sabbath sometime in the near future. Our lives are so busy, and that makes an intentional day of rest all the more important.

Rest is important, and to that end I’ll finish with some wise words a pastor once told me: “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”