Resting in Busy Seasons

blog productivity rest sabbath seasons Dec 13, 2023

Blog by Alan Fadling

I have been working with my practice of Sabbath for some time now. I still don’t feel like an expert, but I am certainly a grateful student. Recently, I read a line in Exodus that felt especially timely: 


Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

Exodus 34:21


What struck me in this passage is that Sabbath is a practice for us even when we are in busier seasons of our work. For God’s people in the days of the Exodus, it would have been understandably tempting to work daily in the intense seasons of planting and of harvest. But God knew this was especially when his people needed rest for their souls. 


God encourages us (commands us, really) to observe the Sabbath even when it’s hard to do, even when we’re in a busy season. Maybe God wants us to realize that we especially need the Sabbath in such seasons. Putting Sabbath off might do harm to our souls and our communities. 


In seasons of intense productivity or profit, we may need even more the rest that reminds us that we are not what we do, but instead are beloved sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. In moments when we are most tempted to believe that we are indispensable or that our work is unavoidable, we need the reminder that the world will go on without us. 


That’s not bad news but good. It is a great burden to believe that the universe is desperately in need of my activities and initiatives. A year ago, in the midst of Gem preparing to launch her new book, Hold That Thought, and her refreshed membership for women, Replenish, we stepped completely away for our annual sabbatical month (July). 


It was hard to do. It was hard to put these intensive parts of her work on pause. But it was necessary. We are not what we harvest. We are not what we produce. We are not what we achieve. We are God’s beloved daughters and sons who do good work and produce good fruit. 


When we find ourselves in very busy seasons, the practice of Sabbath reminds us of these things. When our lives and work are most intense, this is when we most need the gift of Sabbath. It requires a great deal of faith to do it, but it is faith well-placed. 


I can’t think of a busy season when I observed a Sabbath or taken a retreat and afterwards wished I hadn’t. Never. Instead, I’ve often been surprised at the grace that arose when I returned to my work. It has always been good when I’ve honored the rhythm of Sabbath in my busiest seasons of work. 


In all of this, I invite you to start exactly where you are today. Continue good habits of Sabbath rest even if, and especially when, things are busier for you. Experiment with saying “No” when everything in you feels pressured to say “Yes.” 


Experiment with deepening your commitment to daily moments of rest, weekly experiences of Sabbath, monthly times to step aside to be alone with God in retreat, perhaps even annual blocks of time to reflect on the year before and listen to God for the year ahead. These will serve you well, especially when your work is at its fullest. 


I believe this commitment will bear more fruit than constant work can. 


For Reflection: 

  • When have you found yourself in a more intense season? How were you able (or how did you struggle) to make space for good rest in those seasons? 
  • How might God be inviting you to practice good rhythms of rest, especially if it feels hard to do in your current season? 


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash