This month’s blog post topic’s center around Sabbath–keeping. Last week we started off by looking at how we can choose to cease on the Sabbath. You can find that here: Sabbath: Choosing to Cease. This week we’re looking at the various aspects of choosing to rest as discussed in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva J. Dawn.
Dawn discusses spiritual rest, emotional rest, intellectual rest, and social rest in this particular section of her book. I honestly never considered rest in so many different ways prior to reading these chapters.
Dawn begins by sharing about spiritual rest which seems foundational to the others. She says, “When we cease striving to be God we learn a whole new kind of contentment, the delight of the presence of God in our present circumstances. When we give up our silly rebellion against God’s purposes, we discover that he provides the security for which we were searching.”
This takes me right back to: “abandoning control” to God, ceasing to strive and learning to trust Him with whatever may happen. I share more about abandoning control in this post, Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace. Giving up “our silly rebellion against God’s purposes” is key, rest and rebellion cannot co-exist. His purposes are so much bigger than what we can even wrap our brains around. Yet, this is probably my biggest area of struggle when I consider choosing to find rest.
Biblical Sabbath is all about accepting the Sovereignty of God. We find the bedrock for our trust in knowing that He has it all under control and can take care of everything. I totally get that, but knowing His love seems equally as important for me. I feel much more secure in finding rest as I grow in knowing both His sovereignty and His love.
Dawn says “The greatest result of Sabbath resting is the opportunity to know the presence of God, no matter what our circumstances might be.” It is nearly impossible to know His presence in our rushing and striving because our focus is on accomplishing. But when we choose Sabbath rest our focus changes and we can look for Him in our moments.
As Dawn moves on to discuss choosing physical rest in Sabbath keeping, one of her most important statements is this: “The Sabbath is never a day to allow ourselves to be pushed (especially by our own false guilt or by other’s expectations) into activity of any kind.” It is so easy to be pressured into fulfilling other’s expectations or letting our own sense of guilt force us into doing something. Dawn says that if she senses this happening to her, she stops and puts the task aside for another day. The task can be done on the Sabbath, but has to come out of a different frame of mind. Her example was that of writing letters. She felt like she “should” write and when she recognized that feeling of “should” she chose not to write them on that Sabbath day. But the next Sabbath Day she did write them from a different mindset.
This section on choosing to rest also brought up God’s command regarding ceasing from work on the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3). This means that planning ahead is necessary so that you really do have time to rest. This may mean spacing out your work differently during the week or rearranging your schedule. We have to choose to trade in our striving, hour after hour, for times to rejuvenate our bodies in restful ways.
Dawn shares that it has actually been scientifically proven through studies that our body’s need this kind of Sabbath rest every seven days in order to get revived from the strain of the other six days. A lot of different physical and mental symptoms can show up when we live with a continuous lack of rest in our lives.
I have noticed the importance of rest just recently in my own body. My neck and shoulders have been extremely tense and sore from stress, but as I have taken time to get extra rest I am not hurting as much. My body was screaming for the peace and quiet and sleep, and I hadn’t been listening.
When explaining the importance of emotional rest Dawn highlights how the Lord cared for Elijah in 1 Kings 19 after his dealings with Queen Jezebel. This story makes it very obvious that the Lord cares about our physical and emotional needs. It is one of my favorite stories because it so beautiful shares the Lord’s awareness of exactly what we need.
As we choose to set apart the Sabbath and grow in deeper intimacy with the Lord we will find that we experience emotional healing also. I have found this to be true even as I regularly set aside a portion of time to be in God’s Word, the Lord leads me to new understanding of where I am at and His wisdom enlightens me. I am given tools to help me with the struggles I am dealing with, those that often so deeply affect my emotions. Sometimes it is the Lord Himself speaking to my heart impressing something on me. At other times He allows others to share and I will find healing in their words. Sabbath rest allows time for deepening both our relationship with the Lord and with others, and both are very beneficial to emotional rest.
Dawn explains, “…letting God be God in our lives gives us the freedom to deal constructively with our emotions, to accept them and listen to them but not be controlled by them.” Giving my emotions to the Lord as I go through my day is extremely helpful. Telling Him how I feel about this or that and letting Him be at work in it, gives my heart and mind peace to rest in. So it seems especially important to remember how being controlling can affect our emotions (I know, I have experienced those feelings more often than I care to admit,) But, again, it goes back to recognizing God’s sovereignty in situations and letting that be what controls my heart and mind rather than reacting out of my emotions.
The Sabbath also can give us time to explore our deep feelings and desires that have been buried under busyness and striving. We can take time in our resting to talk with the Lord about all that has been lost in the rush of the last six days. What deep feelings have we suppressed? What important desires have we set aside? The Lord cares and He wants to hear about them.
An important part of each day for me is journaling but often my time to journal is limited due to other demands. I have found that on the Sabbath I will spend an extended period of time journaling my thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires. This is a very special time to me and I always come away refreshed.
Dawn states, “Emotional rest is especially induced by whatever calls for creativity and spontaneity.” I have found, also, how much I enjoy just playing with watercolors. It is relaxing as well as being a creative outlet. My painting with watercolors tells a story in itself by the colors I use and the strokes of the brush. My emotions are vividly splashed across the paper.
Dawn shares about intellectual rest in terms of even rethinking the way we read the newspaper or hear the news on the Sabbath. She suggests allowing our knowledge of God’s sovereignty to reframe our thinking as we listen or read. The Sabbath gives our minds time to rest from fear and worry. We can free our minds to focus instead on how we can glorify the Lord.
We can get so caught up in fear and worry, mulling things over in our minds as we busily try to check things off of our to-do lists. But on the Sabbath, we set aside the striving and we can choose to rest our minds, again choosing to use those moments to give praise to the Lord.
Dawn mentions that she enjoys reading fairy tales as part of her Sabbath rest. it is all about finding aids to intellectual rest that leads our thinking down creative paths. We choose to use our brain in a more positive and restful way because on normal days our minds are overloaded with busyness. And we definitely need this renewing!
As I read many of these suggestion I realized that they could be carried over into everyday life even to give us a little Sabbath rest in each day. and that is something I want to do. I want to practice recognizing the Lord’s presence more and choose to rest in His Sovereignty more consistently. Sabbath day is a day to extend these practices throughout the day for greater rest.
The final aspect of rest I want to share from this book is that of social rest. Dawn suggests that, “Sabbath keeping fosters…an increase in our gentleness and tenderness, a non-aggressive stance towards others. The ability to dismantle our own power.”
She mentions that usually we only hear about “social unrest.” Social rest is just the opposite. She says that when our hearts and minds are nurtured by the Lord’s presence, we grow in tenderness and gentleness. It helps us to look at others differently. Life becomes less about power and control or aggression and more about living out His love. And that is an important part of how we should live as we celebrate the Sabbath.
Choosing to rest on the Sabbath does not mean sitting idle, staring into space. Often times, I think that this is our biggest fear. But instead we find so many options of ways to choose rest. So many options that I want to take time to try on my days of Sabbath rest. How about you? What ways intrigue for choosing rest on the Sabbath?
Next week’s post will be Sabbath: Choosing to Embrace. I hope you will join me.