He said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” (Exodus 16:23, ESV)
Have you ever had so much on your “to-do” list that you do none of it? You sleep instead? Or maybe you read a book or binge-watched TV? A “to-do” list can help you control the chaos and bring some direction to your day. It helps you decide what to do next and prevents you from missing something important. However, a “to-do” list, if it’s far too long, can become overwhelming and stressful. The shear amount of “things that must get done” can make it difficult to get anything done because you don’t know where the start; you don’t have the energy to tackle the list.
When I was teaching Freshman English courses, I typically taught a full load, plus tutored on the side. English is different from many subjects because the homework consisted of lots of papers. Every few weeks, I would come home with 120+ papers to grade, in addition to other homework and the lesson plans I needed to create. It was overwhelming. These papers typically needed A LOT of work, so they took longer than normal to grade and provide feedback. There came a time when the amount of work on my plate made me shut down. I was going 100 miles per hour—all day, every day, including weekends—just to get these assignments graded. I burned out.
The Bible is clear on the importance of rest. The Sabbath is a time to stop what you are doing and be still. “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” (Exodus 20:10, ESV). God knew we needed this time to relax and regroup for the week ahead of us. We need space to set our priorities straight on spending time with friends or family, and—most importantly—to spend time with God.
God knows just how easy it is for us to get swept up into a “to-do” list that’s never-ending. When that happens, we often lose sight of Him. Therefore, taking one day of the week and setting aside that time for a Sabbath allows you to rest the weariness in your bones and give these stresses to God.
Are you taking time to yourself to recharge? Are you respecting the Sabbath or are you continuing to plow through your “to-do” list, just hoping it all gets done? God knows you need to shut down, so if you don’t do it yourself, He will find a way to make you take that break. Take control of your time and your mental health—be intentional about pausing for one day every week.
It was early in the morning when I’m started writing this devotion. Later, I sent this text to my best friend who lives on the West Coast: “It’s 8:15 am and I’ve already eaten dessert and popcorn. Apparently, I’m eating my emotions today.” Some days, it feels like everyone is acting crazy, everyone has a fire to put out, someone drops another project or intense deadline on your plate, the “to-do” list has exploded everywhere. Oh, and now your kid is sick (again) and needs to be picked up from school. Ugh. The phrase, “when it rains, it pours” comes to mind.
If you were to search in the Bible for the term “rest,” you would find that the word appears 521 times in some form. However, so many of those occurrences are part of a bigger word—"restore.” In the Bible, there are countless stories of God restoring something to His people. They needed rest. They needed help with their situations. They had struggled for so long and needed rescue. Finally, God saw fit to restore them. This restitution (also a word with “rest” in it) was necessary because of God’s promises to His people.
No matter the situation, God will not forsake you. God sees the daily struggles you go through. He watches you take that giant scoop of cookie dough at 8:00 am in order to power through a particularly difficult morning at work. He sees you cuddle that child with a fever at 2:00 am, knowing you are juggling a giant workload that now must be placed on hold to take care of this child. He sees your efforts and He knows when, where, and how you need help. I think God places the words “rest,” “restore,” and “restitution” throughout the Bible because He knows we need our peace returned to us. He knows we need our sanity restored. He knows we need to have some control restored to our chaotic lives. We do this through rest and connecting with God—giving it all over to Him.
If you have days like the ones I just described, perhaps you could take some time to pause. Rest. Believe that God will restore peace to your life. Take the time to turn to Him and rest in Him. Pray for this restitution for you and for those you love.
At the beginning of the year, Michael Metcalf challenged us to adopt a word for the year rather than a New Year’s resolution. I chose the word, “focus.” My thought was this: I am in a chaotic season of my life; I have two young children; I work full time in a position that has insane deadlines and more work than I have hours in the day; my husband and I are more parents than spouses most days; and I’m in survival mode most of the time. In these crazy times, it’s easy to get swept up into the chaos and become overwhelmed.
Additionally, I will admit that I have a history of anxiety, depression, and not being able to handle stress well. I internalize everything until it becomes too much. My hope was that if I focused on the moment I was dealing with IN that moment, then I wouldn’t become overwhelmed in other areas of my life. Focus on the task. Focus on that child. Focus on my marriage when we can make time for each other. Focus on myself, also, and spend some serious time with my self-care. Focus on God.
I can tell you that so far, I’ve done… eh, okay. I still get swept up into the chaos. I still stress out and feel overwhelmed. What’s changed, however, is that God has used this word to help me.
In January, I really got swept up into some changes that were happening at work and some big projects that demanded a lot of my time. I focused on those challenges and, out of that, some amazing opportunities presented themselves. God not only helped me get through those projects, but He helped me make a great impression on my teammates.
In February, our family dealt with flu, strep, head colds, pink eye, a double ear infection, and pneumonia. This was/is not fun at all. I’m taking a different perspective, though. God knew I was getting too stressed about work, so He helped me refocus my attention on my family, their health, and myself and my health. There were days and days when I had to take off work and just sit and hold my 9-month-old. My house is a wreck, but my kids feel loved. In the end, they are who I needed to focus on at this point in my life. Sometimes, I need the reminder that family comes first, even before work. God helped me see that.
Did you take Michael Metcalf’s challenge and chose a word? How is that working out for you? Do you find that God is using that word to better reach you? How is He using this word to give you a pause or to re-center your life to see Him more?
Why do we have the Sabbath? When God created the world, he took time to rest. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2, ESV). God is greater than great, though. I’m sure He can do anything without rest, so why take the time? Well, He accomplished His goal. He worked hard all week to create something special. He took time to stop and model this behavior for us because it’s what we should do, too.
When it comes to self-care, I will admit that I am a work in progress. It is often difficult for me to put myself first. When I started having children, I started prioritizing a nap on the weekends when they napped. This seems like such a waste of time, but to me—routinely getting up all hours of the night with children—this was a precious time to rest. It’s what got me through those first weeks and years.
We aren’t perfect—far from it in fact. We could work all day, every day, and we still wouldn’t be perfect. However, God IS perfect, and even He took time to rest after accomplishing His tasks for the week. He knew the importance of knowing limitations. He knew that the human body, mind, and spirit needed to stop and rest before attempting to accomplish more tasks. So, He planned and commanded this to be part of His people’s routine. This is how He is strengthening you, restoring you, or preventing burn out in your life.
Take advice from the Most Holy of Holies. Do a little self-care. Stop. Stop pressuring yourself to be perfect. Stop pressuring yourself to get it all done. Stop everything and just relax. Focus your heart on God. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you, and you will honor God’s teaching through this pause.
How do you even go about resting on the Sabbath? I will tell you, over the years I have struggled with this. If your cup is too full during the week, it’s going to spill over into the weekend. One whole day when I don’t have to go into the office? That means I can get other work done! Or housework, or grocery shopping, or whatever is pressing on my brain.
That’s not the point, though. God is clear that we’re to stop what we’re doing and rest on that Sabbath day. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3, ESV).
Yet we say, “But it’s illogical. It doesn’t make sense. Get more done by doing less? Be healthier and have life balance, by doing nothing?” That’s exactly what God is saying. And so we often ignore God’s command: “On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.’ So the people rested on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:27-30, ESV).
How long have I refused to keep this commandment? How long have I tried to find a loophole, or have I said, “Well, this applies to ‘work,’ not ‘housework’”? I can honestly say, “too long.” If God took the time to rest from His work, who am I to do otherwise? God designed us after Himself, in His own image. He designed us to need this rest to reset for the week: physically, mentally, and spiritually. He knew we needed time to really rest in Him and be restored.
Centuries later, Jesus kept the Sabbath and explained: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27b, ESV). The Sabbath is a gift to us from God. He made sure that one of the first things He did was to create a time for us to collect ourselves—to reset. When I think of the Sabbath in this way, I no longer feel guilty about not getting things done. God wants me to take a break. I’m much more likely to get everything done later in the week if I am well rested.
Take advantage of this wonderful gift God has given us. Rest. Restore some peace in your hearts, bodies, and minds. Don’t feel guilty about relaxing. Enjoy and look forward to the time each week when you can honor this gift from God by enjoying your life.