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Habits of Grace: An Overview of the Sabbath

A Bible and a cup of coffee near a body of water.

Practicing Sabbath is a way to slow down, rest, focus on the Lord, and trust Him with your time. It’s a time to get in tune with the way God created for us to live. Sabbath is “God’s gift of repetitive and regular rest. It is given for our delight and communion with God. Time for being in the midst of a life of doing particularly characterizes the Sabbath” (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Calhoun).

God instructed us to rest one day of the week (Exodus 20:8-10, also see Hebrews 4:1, 9-11). Although it’s debatable whether or not Sabbath is considered a command that all Christians should follow, it is clear that those who have begun consistently practicing Sabbath have reaped the benefits of a slower, more focused life that allows for greater awareness of God’s presence and voice. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Sabbath is a huge topic, so this writing is not extensive (and simply practicing the Sabbath will probably teach you more than reading a lot about it!). I want to share what I have learned and how practicing Sabbath has impacted my life over the past months.

Earlier this year, I started scheduling a Sabbath into my routine every week. At first, it was really difficult. All my emotions that I had ignored from hurrying through life hit me, and I didn’t know what to do with myself during this time. Sabbath is a time to slow down, remove the task list, do things I enjoy, and intentionally connect with God. When it hit Friday night, I realized that I had removed so many things I enjoyed from my life and replaced them with other tasks (cleaning, working, doing homework). No wonder I was feeling worn out!

When I slowed down, made room for processing through my life instead of rushing through it, and started enjoying the gifts that God has given me that I can tend to throw on the back burner (for me, this is playing piano, drawing, singing). I started to feel more grounded and whole. As a human being, I need this time with God! Having this 24-hour time to rest is something that I can look forward to each week. It also helps keep me spiritually on track when life gets busy because the scheduled time makes it harder to push off the enjoyment and time with God for other “more pressing” things.

The biggest mindset shift for me has been, as Calhoun says, “trusting God for all that [I’m] not doing or taking care of.” When I am tempted to start checking things off my to-do list or taking control of a situation on my Sabbath, I can practice letting go of those things and trusting that God does take care of me. Not only my mind is affected, though. My body is also learning to slow down, and I am more in tune with my heart. If you are feeling overwhelmed and can’t seem to get out of the busyness of life, I would encourage you to check out John Mark Comer’s Practicing the Way! It is simple, God-focused, experiential, and practical. With God’s help, it has helped me create healthier lifestyle rhythms, understand how holistically I am made, and show me through experience how entering into the way that God created humans to live can be greatly beneficial to the whole person. This is a great resource if you want to take a biblical approach to slowing down.

Tips on practicing Sabbath:

  1. Plan out your Sabbath! Put it on your calendar so that you actually follow through.

  2. Give yourself grace if you feel like your Sabbath time didn’t go exactly as you wanted. For many people, it can be a shock to our minds and bodies to slow down. If it feels like a struggle, that’s okay! Keep going - you will likely adjust to the new pace after a few weeks and feel better for it.

  3. Consider turning off your phone (you can do it).

  4. Cook, clean, and do your other tasks before your Sabbath so you aren’t distracted on your day of rest.

Sabbath Resources:

Practicing the Way (Sabbath) - John Mark Comer

Spiritual Disciplines Handbook - Adele Ahlberg Calhoun


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