We’re a little unique around here in that, while we do talk a lot about healing from betrayal trauma, you won’t hear us beating the self-care drum very often. Even though we do feel that good, Biblical self-care is vital to healing, our ideas about what falls into that category are so different from most others that, most of the time, we tend to avoid the phrase altogether.
Which is unfortunate, because there really are a few things that would qualify as “self-care” that are SO important for all believers (not just those who have experienced betrayal trauma) to prioritize in their life. Bible study, time in prayer, a healthy lifestyle, tithing, and time spent serving the church would be a few examples.
So today, we’re putting aside our aversion to the phrase self-care to talk about an important component – Sabbath rest. It is something the Bible clearly identifies as an important part of obedience to God, and something we were designed by Him to need. So we’re going to learn, not just how to be still before God, but why it is so important to prioritize times of quiet and rest, and develop a gentle and quiet spirit.
The Sabbath was Made for Man (Designed for Sabbath Rest)
We were designed. God created us, just as He created the world in which He placed us to live. He intricately wove the fabric of it all together into this spectacular design in which every piece is all wrapped up in all the others. Each working together to fulfill the purposes of our Creator.
More importantly though, God made us, human beings, in His own image. He created us to be perfect, just as He is perfect, and long before sin had a chance to swoop in and destroy that perfection, God took the time for a Sabbath rest. It is not a need sprung out of depravity, but something we were intended to require all along.
Genesis 2:1-3 – So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work of creation.
Oh, but sin DID swoop in and destroy our perfection, didn’t it? And suddenly everything, even those things which were created in perfection, became tainted by it. People began to twist and corrupt the things designed by God, and with the pendulum swing of time that corruption undulates between legalism (Isaiah 1:13) and rejection (Jeremiah 17:21).
So when Jesus came, He laid it all out plain as day. Sabbath rest is a gift God gave to us for our good. We must learn how to be still before God and honor the Sabbath for what it was designed to be – a time each week for us to practice a little self-care and rest.
Mark 2:27-28 – Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!
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God’s Design for Sabbath Rest
Exodus 20:8-11 – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
In His tender care, God built the solution to our need for rest right into His creation – the week. It is life split up into increments of seven days. For six days we work, and on the seventh day we rest. Period. Not because we’re trying to rigidly follow a system of rules, but because we need a Sabbath rest, and God offered us a simple, perfect way to meet it.
Simply put, we were created with a need to cease our work and simply be still before God, so He commanded we make time for it. To neglect this is to be disobedient to God.
Exodus 34:21 – You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest.
God’s Response to Life Without Sabbath Rest
Before we move on to talk about what a Sabbath rest should look like, and how to be still before God, I want to quickly cover something on the topic of Sabbath rest that I think is important. You see, we have lots of examples in Scripture of times when God’s people chose to rebel against God’s Sabbath. They rejected His system, and I think God’s response is important for us to note.
Here is one of those examples – first the warning in Jeremiah, and then God’s response to Israel’s disobedience in 2 Chronicles 36.
Jeremiah 17:27 – But if you do not listen to me and refuse to keep the Sabbath holy, and if on the Sabbath day you bring loads of merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem just as on other days, then I will set fire to these gates. The fire will spread to the palaces, and no one will be able to put out the roaring flames.
2 Chronicles 36:21 – So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.
The people of Israel refused to honor the Sabbath. They chose not to take time to rest each week, they didn’t honor the Sabbath years in which the land was supposed to enjoy a time of rest, nor the years of Jubilee, a very special time of rest God had set apart for His people and His creation.
* Want to learn more about the Hebrew customs and laws surrounding Sabbath rest? Check out this post about keeping the Sabbath from my friend Diane at Worth Beyond Rubies. She is a Jewish believer who beautifully explains the Jewish traditions around Sabbat and how Christians can incorporate them into their own practices.
So, because of their rebellion, God sent the Jewish people into exile, and the land of Israel was left desolate. The Bible says it (the land) was finally able to enjoy its Sabbath rest.
I want us to consider that God’s ways, and His plans will be fulfilled. Our rebellion does not get in His way in the end. But it is not pleasant to endure His discipline when we choose our own way. So why not simply choose obedience in the first place? Let’s not make Him force us to take the time to rest. Let’s just obey on our own!
How to Be Still Before God – What Does a Sabbath Rest Look Like?
Alright, so we have established that a Sabbath rest is important. Now, what in the world does that actually look like? Does it just mean we go to church on Sundays? (Yeah, I know Saturday is technically the Sabbath day.) Or, are we not allowed to ever do any work on the day we choose as our Sabbath?
I’m probably going to disappoint you with my answer, but the truth is, as members of the New Covenant, I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for a Sabbath rest. Other than we take it, and that it be a time set apart as holy before God. That’s going to look different for all of us, but in every case, it will be a full day each week on which we are learning how to be still before God.
Psalm 46:10 – Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.
Psalm 37:7 – Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act…
For some of us this is going to be a day with no work at all. Perhaps we’ll even adopt the Jewish tradition of Shabbat. (Here’s a pretty cool article from Jews for Jesus on what Shabbat looks like.) For others, it will be a day filled with worship. Some of us will make it all about family time, and others will simply choose to use the day to do things like nap, study our Bibles, take a bath, or other things that force us to slow down and rest.
Whatever we choose to do with our Sabbath rest each week, it needs to be a time when we are quieting our hearts before God. We need to slow down the business of life, and focus on the things of God.
(Just for clarity’s sake, I am not suggesting that Christians don’t need to go to church. We definitely do! I am simply suggesting that some of us may not choose Sunday as our day of rest, so while we will continue to go to church on Sunday, our day of Sabbath rest may be a different day and include totally different things.)
Understanding the Source of True Rest
As we seek out time to rest and learn how to be still before God, there is something we must understand. True rest – the kind that actually refreshes our souls and equips us for the storms of life – can come only from one place.
Psalms 127:1-2 – Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to His loved ones.
Oh how we humans strive to take care of ourselves! We work hard, we play hard, we analyze and evaluate and study and dissect, we think up lofty notions and eloquent proverbs, we rationalize and deduce, we pontificate and indoctrinate. All in the name of self-care, but we tend to leave out one KEY component.
All our striving will be in vain if our source does not spring forth from the Rock of Ages! We will find our rest only when we hide ourselves in His love.
Psalm 62:5-8 – Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my Rock and my Salvation, my Fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
Oh my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.
God has not simply commanded us to take time for rest, but He has invited us to lay our burdens on Him and accept the deep, satisfying, soul renewing rest that only HE gives.
Matthew 11:28-30 – Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
As we accept His invitation, He will develop in us something the Bible tells us is precious to Him – a gentle and quiet spirit. The Bible says it is a character quality which gives unfading beauty, which tells me it is something that will persist, even through very difficult times. It tells me God can give me rest and keep me at peace, even in the worst of times.
1 Peter 3:4 – You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
How to Be Still Before God with a Gentle and Quiet Spirit
As we close, let’s take a look at Psalm 23, because I think it captures an attitude that will be found in a person who is making time in her life for Sabbath rest. It demonstrates a gentle and quiet spirit so beautifully, and I believe, offers us a wonderful template for how to be still before God within the depths of our souls. May this precious Psalm be our prayer:
I lift my voice in worship to the Good Shepherd – the One who gives me all that I need, guides me along the right path, protects and comforts me in the darkest valleys, showers me with blessings and prepares an everlasting place for me as the daughter that He dearly loves. Truly He does lead me beside peaceful streams and grant me rest, for I will be secure in the house of the Lord FOREVER!
*How about you? What have you learned about how to be still before God? Is Sabbath rest something you make time for each week? Tell us what you do to keep this day holy. Finally, what are some ways God has “led you beside the still waters” and given you rest?