Entering into the Gift of Sabbath

blog guilt rob bell sabbath solitude temptation Apr 08, 2020

I’m often asked what Sabbath looks like for me. Though I have a book with Sabbath in the subtitle, this does not mean that I’m always a master of Sabbath. It continues to be a practice I’m growing in and learning to receive as the gift that it is. 

A while back, I read something Rob Bell wrote about Sabbath that was very helpful to me: 

“Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn’t.

Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.

Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.

Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.

Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.

Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, ‘I didn’t do anything today,’ and I don’t add, ‘And I feel so guilty.’

Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don’t check my email, and you can’t get a hold of me.”* 

I was reading this on a three-day retreat that was a Sabbath-like space in the midst of a very busy season of ministry. As I reflected on these words, these were the insights God was bringing to mind and heart: 

  • Our lives and the work of Unhurried Living does not cease because I step away like this. You are at work even when I rest. 
  • It doesn’t help when I pressure myself to be productive, efficient or active. These are the wrong rulers by which to measure Sabbath. Sabbath is for rest, not work. 
  • The work of my Sabbath spaces is to enter into joy. I haven’t always found it easy to simply enjoy the life I already have. A good question for my Sabbath is, “What would I enjoy doing (or not doing) with God today? 
  • Sabbath isn’t just a solitary day. It’s a day to be available to both myself and those near me. It’s a day to simply receive the gift of relationship. 
  • Sabbath is a day to see. I can let God’s Spirit show me how to keep my eyes open to the good that surrounds me. 
  • Setting Sabbath goals isn’t probably my best move. It activates my productivity meter. Sabbath is a day to let that rest. 
  • I can resist the temptation to guilt. Sabbath is a gift to be received. I am not being measured for getting the most out of it. 
  • It’s always good when I go digitally quiet on my Sabbath days. 

Is there one of these insights about Sabbath that sounds especially important for you to try on or make a more consistent element of your own weekly resting? 

*Rob Bell. Velvet Elvis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005, p. 117-18.


Photo by David Hellmann on Unsplash