Growing up, I was always taught about the importance of the Sabbath and keeping it holy. When I think of that, the only connection it had was how we would spend our Sabbath day – Sundays. Every Sunday morning, my family and I would get up and ready for church, have some argument on the way over (after all, we’re no more perfect than your family!), and then enjoy our time while in church talking with other believers, and learning with friends. We would then go out to eat, come home for Sunday nap, and then watch a movie together. When I first think of the Sabbath, these days come to mind.
In college, though, I viewed the Sabbath a little differently. Sundays were my day to catch up with friends, take a nap, and try to get all of my homework and studying in before the big day on Monday. They were my days of stress where everything I had put off was piling on top of me and creating an extreme element of pressure. Sundays haven’t really been a day of rest and rejoicing in my recent past.
However, this year I am part of a unique program called The Fellows Program, and I have discovered a new way to take part in a Sabbath day of rest. Being involved in Youth Ministry is not necessarily restful, and we have a great deal of “work” that takes place on Sundays. Therefore, I take Saturdays as my day of rest. This may take place in many forms. Some Saturdays, it means I get up early, have my coffee and spend time with the Lord as a start to a slow and wonderful morning. Others, it means I go on a hike with friends and appreciate the creation in which the Lord has created us to live and have dominion. Sometimes, I may have a hectic day of activities, but in the midst of them I find ways to celebrate God’s goodness in tiny moments of peace.
I have found that celebrating the Sabbath in one way, shape, or form has created a domino effect for how I see the presence of the Lord throughout my week. The more I rest on a designated day during the seven day week, the better able I am to focus on the Lord in both chaotic and peaceful moments in time during every day. My focus is set on who I am in Christ and how He is at work throughout my day and throughout my week. In a way, it is almost like the dirty lenses on my glasses are being wiped away and I am much more fully aware and able to see the Lord’s handiwork in every situation.
Not only am I rested physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. God’s command to “keep the Sabbath day” is not a curse, but rather a blessing. He has called us to rest in Him and the fullness of His grace. Jeremiah 6:16 states, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
The more I see myself straying from what God has commanded His people to do, the more stressed and anxious and impatient I react in everyday situations. When we deny the calling of Christ in our lives – whether that be in work, family, friends, school, or whatever is going on – we deny rest for our souls. He has laid out a path that is good and right. This may not always be the easiest road, but there is spiritual rest and assurance that can be found through His most precious Spirit.
Jesus says himself in Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” There is a specific day set aside for rest, but even on other days, there is rest available in the fullness of Christ.
Personally, I take time on my long commutes in the morning to quiet my heart and set my thoughts on the Lord through prayer. I have found that this simple act helps to change and shape my perspective, to see myself and His hand at work more clearly. Also, this has greatly affected my attitude and reactions to different issues that come up during my work week. The more I start my day with Jesus and am consistently and purposefully centering my thoughts on Him, the more I can see the fruits of the Spirit in my life, or at least the leaning of my actions in that direction.
Looking to the Lord in the peacefulness of the morning allows for His peace to reign in my spirit throughout the rest of the day. I am better equipped to love my co-workers and see the people I come in contact with through the eyes of Jesus in a much clearer light. Etty Hillesum said it in a way that I really relate to: “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”
Rest is a gift. It is a blessing that the Lord has given us. With the way the American culture – and our world – is set up, this can be very hard to see at times. Everything is so fast paced, and if you rest you are considered weak or lazy. The pressure to be the best of the best is so prevalent in America, and if you take a day of rest, you are automatically behind the rest of society who has been working consistently. Although this is the case, I have found rest vital to sharpen our focus as believers and center in on why we are on this earth in the first place.
We are to work efficiently and wholeheartedly, but we are also here to love one another and the world as Jesus did. To reach out to the poor, and broken, and the distressed. We are to be an “other” minded people, not centered on ourselves, but on sharing the gospel with everyone we meet. We are here on this earth for the spreading of the gospel and the loving of God’s people. This reshaping of my focus can happen in many ways, but it is most simply found in resting in the presence of Jesus – daily.
Sara Kathryn Cole, a graduate of Covenant College, works in fundraising and is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.