Do you and your spouse find time each week to rest—to take a Sabbath together? Do you make it a point to set aside one day of your busy week to just stop and “chill out?” If we were asked these questions several years back, we would have had to say no. We would have said we were too busy. And we truly believed we were. Being in full time ministry, along with raising a family (and many additional demands) has brought all kinds of demands on our time. But we have since changed our ways on this. We’re still busy, but we DO take a Sabbath day to rest and enjoy God within the peacefulness.
Why? First off, God commands it in the 4th of His 10 Commandments. God said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor and do all your work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work…”
Even God rested on the seventh day after He spent six days creating the world. (You can’t get much busier than that!) We’re told in Genesis 2:2: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” God gave us the example of what He wants us to do on the Sabbath. So, this resting thing is pretty important to Him. Thus, it should be to us. It is a holy principle.
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Enjoying the Sabbath in Your Married Life
Concerning this matter, Pastor/author Robert Morris gives us a little additional insight: “The Hebrew word at the root of our word, ‘Sabbath’ is shabbat, which literally means ‘to cease.’ Shabbat is to stop. To quit. So, the statement that God ceased from His works literally means God shabbat-ed. Keep that in mind.”
And we should! Why is it that we put importance on keeping God’s other nine commandments such as “do not steal; do not murder” … etc., and yet we rush right past that one?
Regretfully, we did for many years. We just thought we were too busy. And by the world’s standards, we were. However, as Christ followers, we are to please God above all. We didn’t give the principle of the Sabbath the importance we should have. We know that now. So, in recent years we’ve been making a lot of changes. We know this pleases God. Plus, we’re physically and mentally stronger as a result. Plus, our marriage is all the stronger for it (which is another good reason to honor the Sabbath). We feel closer to God and to each other when we do things God’s way!
The Sabbath and Marriage
“God asks us to take a Sabbath rest. Our bodies were made for a day of rest once a week. We encourage you to work and do activities with your kids for six days; but then take off one day. There is to be no work. No shopping. No running to sports activities. Instead, set aside the entire day to worship God. Take naps, rest, and play together. This is part of intimacy—finding rest in each other, lying in each other’s arms, and enjoying the closeness without the stress of life.” (From the book, “Intimacy Ignited” written by Joseph and Linda Dillow and Peter and Lorraine Pintus)
Keep in mind:
“If God had to rest on the seventh day, how can we skip over a Sabbath and not rest? Take a moment and review your week. Crazy busy no doubt, especially if you have children. If the Creator of the universe, who not only designed the world, but brought it to life (we LIVE IN IT!) had to take a day and rest, how much more should the Sabbath be a part of week? We need to be refreshed in our marriages! Otherwise, we turn into stale bread: hard and stinky. Refreshment in your marriage needs to happen weekly.” (Selena Frederick, from her article, “Keeping the Sabbath: Rest, Refreshment, and Recognition”)
We encourage you to do what we are learning to do. Author Nancy Sleeth gives this suggestion:
“Block off Sabbath time on your calendar. Here’s a simple truth: It won’t happen unless you schedule it. For most people, Sabbath is celebrated on Sunday. For church leaders, hospital workers, and people who provide emergency services, Sabbath might have to be moved to another day of the week. Because our ministry requires frequent travel, I use a calendar to schedule our Sabbaths at least four months in advance. This lets our staff know when we will be offline and allows them to plan accordingly.”
Additionally, Nancy gives this perspective:
“We both have workaholic tendencies. We both love our work. This is a dangerous combination. Yet no matter what deadlines are looming, my husband and I do not work on the Sabbath. When one of us begins to ‘talk shop,’ we gently remind each other to give it a rest.” (From the article, “How to Balance Your Life: Keep the Sabbath”)
Those are great tips! We can especially relate to what Nancy wrote. It’s difficult to “give it a rest” when we see so much that is vying for our attention. But we also realize that we could work seven days a week, 24 hours a day and still never get everything done. Ministry work can especially pull us into working more hours/days than we should. Somehow, we feel we can justify working more and longer than we should in ministering to others. But is that truly what God is asking of us? No! Instead He tells us to:
Take a Rest on the Sabbath.
It’s true what Eugene Peterson wrote:
“If we do not regularly quit work for one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously. The moral sweat pouring off our brows blinds us to the primal action of God in and around us.”
There is an abundance of research out there that proves that if we don’t take regular rests from our work, we will burn out. It can cause us to become physically, emotionally, and even spiritually unhealthy. Yes, we can become spiritually unhealthy when we take ourselves and our work so seriously that we keep going and going and going. It’s a matter of weak faith. Do we think we’re so important to the workings of the world that God can’t help us to get the most important things done? Do we think our work is more important than keeping His commands? No!
If we do, could we maybe call our impulse to work and keep working an addiction? That’s the conclusion we had to come to. We realized that we were addicted to “our” ministry work. It was always calling to us, always drawing us to work longer hours than we should. And that just isn’t healthy. We had to learn to break this draw to keep working and do what God tells us to do. Make sure we take a Sabbath. And you need to, also.
Pastor Robert Morris gives this insight into the Sabbath:
The Four-Tank Sabbath Renewal
“It will take some time to break your addiction to busyness to become comfortable with the slow, still environment that leads to renewal.
“That is not to suggest that there is no place for entertainment or fun on the Sabbath. On the contrary, your strategy for enjoying and benefitting from this day of rest begins with understanding that you need to refill all four of your tanks—the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. I personally find that a funny movie or some good escapist fiction reading refills my mental tank. But I don’t spend my entire day in front of the television, or with my nose in a book. I know I have four tanks that all need some attention. For example, I know that time with Debbie, my children, and now my grandchildren, restores and renews me emotionally.
“For my physical tank, a leisurely walk in the outdoors, weather permitting, carries remarkable power to refresh and renew. Notice that I didn’t say, ‘forty hard minutes on a stair-climber or treadmill.’ There’s nothing wrong with vigorous exercise or having fitness goals. But your Sabbath is not a time for advancing your personal goals. ‘Achievement’ is for the other six days each week. This day is about enjoyment, delight, and renewal.” (Robert Morris, from his book, “Take the Day Off: Receiving God’s Gift of Rest”)
Taking the Sabbath
Concerning this matter, we love the advice that Charles Spurgeon gave to his students who were studying to be preachers:
“Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintery months; and man, even when exalted to God’s ambassador, must rest or faint, must trim his lamp or let it burn low, and must recruit his vigor or grow prematurely old … In the long run we shall do more by sometimes doing less.’”
That is SO true! With that in mind, below are two suggestions for “Successful Sabbath Making” according to Dennis Rainey:
• “Remember that worship is an integral part of a day of rest. Without question, worshiping in a local church is necessary on the Sabbath and can continue at home after the church service. Fill your home with the soothing sounds of hymns or praise music that exalts the Lord God Almighty and turns your heart toward Him.
• “Without becoming legalistic, continue to discuss and refine together the ways you experience sabbath rest. Some of the most stimulating discussions Barbara and I have had concern the activities that encourage sabbath rest. … To what extent will we try to protect our lives, marriage, and family from the world on this special day? Be purposeful about your day of rest together. Make it a spiritual discipline.” (From the article, “Bringing Back the Sabbath”)
Being Purposeful Together
Are you being spiritually purposeful about your day? Do you set one day among the seven that God gives you to take a Sabbath rest? And do you pull together as a couple to rest and enjoy each other? What about your relationship with God? Do you take a Sabbath day to worship, and enjoy the day restfully TOGETHER?
It may be that you and your spouse approach this issue in different ways. Or it could be that you didn’t really give the importance of having a Sabbath much thought. Perhaps you should talk together about this. Find ways to marry your differences so they work for your marriage. We have; and we’re still talking about this. We realize that God commands that we take a Sabbath. He wants us to restfully commune with Him and with each other. The purpose is not to stress us, but to rest us. We NEED to take a sabbath rest.
So, we prepare for the Sabbath starting on Saturday. We put our clothes out the night before that we will be wearing to church. When our kids were growing up, I did the same for them. Our Sunday meal consists of something simple, maybe even leftovers—something yummy but simple. We go to church and lean together into the worship experience. Sunday is a time when we lean into the Lord, worship, talk to our out of town family, rest, take a nap, and make it a point to NOT add any stress to the day. It’s not a day when we tackle any project or negative emotional issue. We tackle those on other days.
Zena Carter adds to this point:
“I used to expect our entire weekend to be devoted to house projects. My husband used to expect the entire weekend to be devoted to relaxing. That doesn’t happen anymore. And we’re butting heads a lot less (in this particular area).
“Through Sabbath, we’ve implemented clear boundaries on our time. Six days on, one day off. Sabbath pulls us both to the middle of the spectrum—toward balance and health. Remember Jesus’s words in John 10:10? ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.‘
“Jesus rescues us with his life, death, and resurrection—and He gives us new eyes to see that Sabbath isn’t obsolete, arbitrary or burdensome. Sabbath is a life-giving delight.” (From her article, “Observing Sabbath is a Marriage Game Changer“)
Do you view your Sabbath in a “life-giving” delightful way? Do you look forward to breaking away from the work to rest? We didn’t. But we do now. And it has been great for us. We both look forward to this day of renewing our energy and refreshment. We just simply have to trust God that we will get our work done, even though we took the Sabbath off.
Kate Motaung gives this insight:
“During a recent sermon that my husband preached, he told the congregation that we should designate Sunday afternoons as leisure reading time. Even if we don’t manage to read for pleasure during the rest of the week, we could chip away at the pages of a book each Sunday afternoon.
“I can’t tell you how much freedom those words gave to me. Hearing his suggestion was like a gulp of much-needed fresh air. It sounds silly; but it was almost as if I needed permission to read something just for my own enjoyment. Now I can hardly wait until Sunday lunch is cleared from the table. I can then sneak away to a quiet corner (or let’s be honest—a semi-noisy living room with boys playing) with a pile of books just for me. Instead of cooking a full lunch and dinner on Sundays, I give myself a break in the kitchen. I have the kids make sandwiches or toast and tea, or warm up an assortment of leftovers.
“The goal is to minimize work and stress and maximize reveling in the enjoyment of God and His good gifts.” (Kate Motaung, from her article, “How to Enjoy the Blessing of Sabbath Rest“)
It’s a great goal! But we want you to realize that our approach to our Sabbaths may look very different from each others. Your idea of rest may look much different than anyone else’s. And it may be that you can’t take a Sabbath on Sunday. That’s okay! Find another day. Just make sure you do take a Sabbath.
And then below is another point you may want to consider.
“I strongly recommend that you make your Sabbath an off-grid day. Pretend you’re an Amish person or the day! Use as little technology as you can. Rediscover silence. No doubt, at first it will bother you. We’ve become so accustomed to being constantly bombarded by sound in the form of media we are actually uncomfortable when there’s no background noise. Quiet, seems wrong, somehow. It makes us mentally itchy. Yet quiet is exactly what you need, especially if you want to hear the voice of God. Your heavenly Father wants to speak with you; but He’s not interested in trying to shout to be heard over the racket with which we incessantly surround ourselves.” (Robert Morris, from his book, Take the Day Off: Receiving God’s Gift of Rest)
Now, we’re meddling! But pray about it. The above idea isn’t a commandment; it’s just a suggestion. Make sure you prayerfully talk about it to see if you and your spouse agree that it’s a good idea to stay away from media on your Sabbath Day. It could be good for some couples. But it wouldn’t be for others. All we’re asking is that you prayerfully consider it.
As a matter of fact, prayerfully consider all we’ve said here. We hope and pray you will. God wants the best for us. And when we do as He commands, we will be all the richer for it.
We close with scriptures that God tells us about the Sabbath:
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly, then you shall take delight in the Lord; and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
May God bless your marriage abundantly as you honor Him together on the Sabbath!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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