I’m a workaholic. Or at least, I’m a guy who likes working more than almost anything else. I haven’t decided which it is yet. There’s a thin line between “man on a mission” and “heading towards burnout.”
I learned that this past summer during my cross-country bike ride. I tried to muscle through on what should have been my first rest day. My plan was to rest every seventh day. The week had gone well and I woke up on my rest day feeling great.
“If I bike today, I’ll get ahead of schedule.” I thought.
My greed for miles clouded my judgement and I set out to tack on an extra sixty miles for the week. Twenty miles in, my body and my bike both gave up. My legs wouldn’t crank, and my rear derailleur started to misbehave. I was forced to make camp at a tiny campground beside a rowdy bar. Humbled and exhausted, I resolved to stop at least once a week.
A rationale person would say, “Luke, of course you need to stop once a week. That really seems like a minimum amount of rest.” But this is an area where I’m not rationale. In fact the very next day I thought about setting our for a “quick” twenty or thirty miles. I was Icarus with sunscreen, certain I could make it this time.
The idea of a sabbath is to realize we don’t need to always DO stuff. Sometimes all God wants from us is to remember that he’s got it, he’s in control, and no amount of effort or tireless pursuit will wrestle that control away from him.
'Sometimes all God wants from us is to remember that he’s got it, he’s in control.'Click To Tweet
Dallas Willard says it like this, “The command is ‘Do no work.’ Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to DO to BE. Accept the grace of doing nothing. Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.”
I’ve gone through seasons of fiercely defending my sabbath day, being intentional about a day of space. But bit by bit those days would get crowded out… an email here, an appointment there, a little bit of time on that project I didn’t get to. Soon I wasn’t taking a day off.
The sabbath isn’t a suggestion. It’s the fourth commandment. God took the time to write down his ultimate top ten list for Moses, and this made the top five. It’s important.
I’ve heard the sabbath explained like an oil change. At set intervals you should change the oil in your car’s engine. If you don’t, things get gunked up and parts start grinding and over time it will do real damage. The damage isn’t immediate, it isn’t like you miss one oil change and the car spontaneously bursts into flames, and therein lies the danger.
In the same way that you can put off an oil change, I often put off my sabbath. I promise myself that next week I’ll really take the day to just be, but today I just have too much to do. It’s a tempting lie, and a dangerous one.
We need sabbath, we were designed to take the rest. We need it to serve as a reminder God is in control, to not worry. I’m as guilty an offender as anyone else. The lack of sabbath is one of the greatest spiritual diseases surrounding us.
In Hebrews it says this, “God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.” (Hebrews 4:1)
Failure to experience God’s rest is failure to experience God.Click To Tweet
Sabbath is not a suggestion, it’s a command. We’ve been freed of the legalistic restrictions, cut loose from the regimented observances of old, but not from the command itself. We are still told to rest, and to trust that when we do everything is better for it.
The crazy thing is when I look back on my bike ride, my most productive days are the days right after rest. If I cheated, and biked on a rest day, I’d rarely make my mileage goal. On days after a sabbath, I would put up my biggest numbers. Taking an entire day to rest made me more productive than taking two days to work.
Rest is what makes productivity possible. We talk ourselves out of time off. We insist we will relax more once the to-do list is done. The problem is the only way to find true peace is by trusting God is in control and admitting you aren’t.
A day off is literally a gift from God. It’s his weekly way of saying “I got this.” It reminds us we are not alone in our struggles and we are not defined by our accomplishments. Taking time to rest improves our perspective, recharges our motivation, and increases our dependance on God. What a great thing to do every week!
Next Monday I’ll share my tips for how to include sabbath in your schedule. Sign up for my mailing list to receive fresh content each week.
Do you take a sabbath? Do you rest? Do you trust God enough to give up a day and say, “I’m available.”?