Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord . Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'” – Exodus 31:12-17
If you had to choose one spiritual struggle Americans have more than any other, it might be that of the Sabbath (rest). Capitalism has driven many a person into workaholism. Why is it so difficult for us to rest? Many people struggle not finding their identity in what they accomplish. “We live to work rather than work to live.”
The text above outlines God’s command to his people to observe the Sabbath. In his ministry, Jesus would later explain that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. (Mark 2:27). This day of rest was God’s gift to humanity. It was intended to remind us that life isn’t only about what we produce. It was designed to help us remember that we don’t make the world spin. These truths are a massive gift to the soul.
I have struggled to observe any kind of Sabbath for much of my life. I always thought my hobby was working. I enjoy working. I love the work God has given me. If I’m honest, some of the reasons I enjoy working are that I get affirmation from people for my work. I feel more valuable in the world because of my work. This strategy for life is sustainable until one can’t keep up anymore because of burnout or a mistake made, or because someone better at this job shows up. If your whole identity is wrapped up in your ability to outperform everyone, every day, forever, your soul is in a precarious position.
Sabbath is a gift from God to humanity to remind us that the world’s weight is on his shoulders, not ours. It’s a reminder that he loves us even when we produce nothing. If you take a day off, the world keeps spinning, you keep breathing, and God sustains it all.
One way I have learned to practice the Sabbath is to play disc golf. I realized that working wasn’t a good hobby, so I decided to embrace this simple sport as a real hobby. Disc golf isn’t productive. No one cares if I am good or bad at it. I will not make a career out of it; ultimately, it’s a waste of time. It is for these reasons that it is valuable to me. When I play a round, I enjoy the physical exercise, God’s creation, and the reality that God loves me even when I’m not in the office doing something.
Try wasting some time this week. Let God speak to you through the process. “Perhaps” your shoulders are not strong enough to hold up the world; let sabbath remind you of that.