One question I dread hearing from people is, “Ranjit, how do you practice Sabbath?”
As a pastor, I am someone who likes to work on Mondays. I reply to messages even at 2:30 a.m. I make sure my spam mailbox is regularly checked and deleted. I make sure I have zero unread messages in my inbox, WhatsApp, and social media when I go to bed. Yes, I am a little compulsive.
What does this have to do with Sabbath? Well, my mind never rests. And it is not because I am a superhero who needs applause. It is because I am sinful and it is actually quite sad.
A lack of Sabbath rest is an indication of heart idolatry. We are worshipping something other than God on a day to day basis. It can be a need for people’s approval, an unbiblical measure for success, the need to be in control, the fear that things might not go as planned, over-estimating the significance of my role, the fear of missing out, and all kinds of other God-substitutes.
The reason I find it hard to unwind and rest and enjoy my Sabbath is because of heart idolatry. Do you see this in your life?
A lack of Sabbath rest can also be out of guilt or shame. We can think, “I do not deserve rest. I have to accomplish more so I feel I have earned true rest. I am not good enough to enjoy life.”
A lack of Sabbath rest can also be because of my lack of understanding about how to enjoy the Sabbath, “What am I supposed to do? Sleep all day?”
Sabbath rest is about delight and joy. God delighted in his creation and was deeply satisfied. Maybe one reason we ignore Sabbath is because we have made it out to be so “religious” and simply sucked all the joy out of it.
Along with worshipping and fellowshipping with other believers, hearing and meditating on God’s word, and remembering and reflecting on the gospel, here are some things to consider when thinking about how to enjoy the Sabbath.
Make a List of What You Enjoy Doing
What do you love to do? It can be an outdoor activity—walking in a park, cycling or trekking. It could be a hobby like painting or playing music. It could be enjoying a meal with friends. It can be things that include your family but need not be exclusive to your family. It might sound simple but I realised it is easy to identify what I do not like and difficult to identify what I delight in. There may be no time to do what you enjoy during the week but there is time for it on the Sabbath.
Know Your Personality
If you are energised by being with people, make time for it on your Sabbath. You will find it restful and energising. If you are energised by spending time alone in reflection, quietness and solitude, make time for it on your Sabbath. Everyone’s Sabbath does not need to look the same. It does not mean you do not have time for personal reflection or social interaction. But your Sabbath practice reflects your awareness of your personality and what real rest looks like for you.
These two postures have helped me rethink and rework my Sabbath. I do not feel guilty when I engage in things I enjoy because I am aware they deepen my delight in God. I also give myself permission to cut back on social engagements on my Sabbath as I personally prefer to be alone or with a few friends where I do not have to function as a pastor.
Are you finding yourself ignoring the Sabbath? Are you finding your heart restless? Would you consider your heart idolatry and repent before God? Sabbath is about delight. It is an invitation to freedom from idolatry. It is about enjoying our salvation in Christ.
“For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. . . ” (Isa. 30:15).