The idea of Sabbath rest can raise conflicting thoughts. Many of us do not observe it stringently as laid out in the Old Testament. Are we missing something important by not observing it at all though?
There are a couple of times in the Gospels where Jesus clashed with the religious leaders over the details of observing the Sabbath. His response on one of those occasions holds wisdom for us today: “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:27)
In their quest for devoutness, the religious leaders were missing the point of the Sabbath. It wasn’t to test their adherence to God’s commands, but rather to give them a much-needed rest from their work. In our efforts to avoid the trap of legalism, perhaps we’ve forgotten that regular times of rest aren’t just a good idea, they are also an act of obedience.
Certainly, we were created for work, and God has specific “good works” the He has planned out for us as mentioned in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This passage does not say that we were only created for work, though! Yes, it’s important to work diligently at the tasks that God has set before us, but if we neglect regular times of rest, then we’re neglecting part of what God has planned for us. As Jesus said, God created the Sabbath for our benefit. He knew that we needed a break, and a time of rest and refreshment in order to continue in our work well.
How Can Sabbath Rest Work for Me?
If you’re a homeschooling mom with children in the house, particularly young children, you’re probably thinking that any sort of rest and refreshment is just about impossible. I get it. It seems like I can’t do anything without being interrupted at least a few times. Honestly, I’m quite sure that the Jewish moms during biblical times didn’t get a complete break from all mothering on the Sabbath either!
The key is to be intentional about building in space in our routine for times of rest.
If you are an early-riser, take a few moments to pause by the window and watch the sunrise. Just breathe for a minute. Pray about what’s on your mind, or ponder a scripture that you’ve recently read. Use this pause to rest, reflect, and refocus on God.
As much as I strongly dislike alarms and early mornings, I’ve recently started setting an alarm so that I have a little bit of time before the kids are up to read my Bible and journal in a quiet house. This little space to breathe each morning is a kind of Sabbath rest for me, and it starts my day on a very different note than jumping into the chaos.
Some seasons in life, you can’t get up early enough to avoid the chaos, and I’ve definitely been there too. If sunrises and mornings are not something you can fit into your day, then maybe you can step outside your door for a few minutes to watch the sun set, or to just look up at the night sky. Walk around your yard or neighborhood during the afternoon and admire the plants in bloom, or even the freshly-fallen snow if it’s winter!
It’s wonderful if someone else can keep an eye on the kids while you take a longer break, but even small, daily pauses are of benefit. Schedule a hard break in your homeschooling day where everyone works on something quiet. It’s okay if it’s just fifteen minutes, but focus those fifteen minutes on withdrawing from the chaos. Set a timer and remind the kids that they need to stay quietly occupied while you find a quiet corner of your home for a short rest.
Even when we strive to be intentional about building time for rest into our routines, it’s a struggle. It’s hard because to rest takes faith. We are so used to the idea that it’s up to us to get everything done. If it all depends on us, then we can’t take a break. The question is, do we trust God with our days? Do we believe that He is the one ultimately in control, or are we putting our faith in our own work? It’s hard to step back in obedience for times of rest, and harder still to exercise faith and place the things we are resting from in God’s hands. Ironically, resting can be hard work. The rest is a vital part of our work though, and our obedience and faith in this matter has the potential to transform our days. It can transform us too!
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11