By Jennifer Smith
Recently our Sunday school lesson was about “Balancing Work and Rest.” I learned some significant truths about why it is important to take “Sabbaths” in our lives. There are spiritual, physical and emotional reasons that make a Sabbath necessary in order to maintain a balanced life.
In Exodus 16:22-30, God is giving the Israelites instructions about the collection of manna, which was God’s provision for them when they were wandering in the wilderness. Manna was food that fell from the sky each day and God gave just enough for that day. If the people became anxious and collected more than they needed it became rancid. God tells them to collect more on the day before the Sabbath so they would not have to work on the Sabbath collecting their manna. The manna would remain fresh. Guy Sales, pastor of First Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., says, “When God tells them to take a Sabbath, there is a tenderness to God’s care: God wants people to be free from the fear of not having enough as well as the fear of not having done enough.”
In Genesis, God ceased working on the seventh day after creating the world. Not even God can do everything by doing. In Deuteronomy, we are commanded to keep the Sabbath in order to remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves to the demands of others. The command was originally given in the 10 Commandments to a group of former slaves of Pharaoh. It was given to remind us all that we are more than workers, producers, and a means to an end. We are theoretically “free” today, but it seems that we are “slaves of consuming desires, overwhelming demands and relentless pressures.” (Guy Sales)
To pray and to play, to worship God and to enjoy life, are the purposes of the Sabbath. We are not made for constant work. Wayne Muller cautions, “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath-our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attacks, our accidents create Sabbath for us” (Sabbath, New York: Bantam, 1999, 20). If we do not rest, our bodies tell us to rest and sometimes in ways we do not choose.
Taking a Sabbath may mean setting aside a day, and if not a day, a principle and pattern for life. “Whether we get twenty-four uninterrupted hours of Sabbath or not, we need to weave worship, prayer, rest, renewal, wonder and play into our lives… Sabbath is a permeating attitude and a prevailing practice of gratitude, humility, wonder and limits.” (Guy Sales)
Limits and boundaries keep us healthy. We do God’s work by taking time to rest and regroup. Sometimes we keep working to avoid sitting with ourselves and listening to what our souls are telling us. When we take time to rest and to be grateful we grow our connection to God, to our families, and to ourselves.