You Need Rest
By: Tom Grosh IV, DMin
November 7, 2019
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” — Genesis 2:2-3, ESV
“In order to cultivate the habit of sabbath, you have to reduce the idea of your importance… Sabbath reinforces the stubborn reality that we can’t actually finish it all…The center of the Christian faith is that we are saved because of something someone else did—this is the message of grace.” — Justin Whitmel Earley, author of The Common Rule: Creating Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction
When did you last “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” by focusing a 24-hour period upon finding rest in and worshipping the Lord? Justin Whitmel Earley begins “Weekly Habit 4: Sabbath” by telling the story of visiting a doctor in China. At the time Justin had overexerted himself seeking to be a good, learned, cross-cultural missionary. How did the Chinese physician respond to Justin’s confession of placing undo stress upon his body and the resultant need of medical care?
“He put down his clipboard and for the first time in the conversation switched to Chinese…He put his hand on my shoulder. As he spoke in his own language, his personality suddenly shifted. He sounded tender and wise. He seemed less of a doctor and more of a grandfather—someone I could trust. ‘Ni xuyao xiuxi (You need rest),’ he said with a smile. An incredible sense of relief spread over me. And then I went home.”
Many of us inhabit a cultural perspective in which status (and/or success) is achieved through busyness. “We do not believe that work is from God and for our neighbor. Instead we believe that work is from us and for us…Our careers define us…we’re trying to show that we matter, that the world wants us, that the world depends on us.”
Do you believe:
- The world (or an important niche of it) depends on you?
- You are being shaped into (or have become) the heroic healthcare professional?
- Your career has started (or come) to define you instead of the One whom you are to worship?
Let us turn to the insights offered by Justin in his short video.
- What would/does your ideal sabbath look like?
- How would/does the 24-hour period involve worship?
- How would/does the day involve rest?
Once again Justin Whitmel Earley hits the mark in a most uncomfortable manner. I confess stretches of ministry driven by busyness, which somehow appears to have the authority to displace worship, rest, the Word and prayer. I think that those in the ministry and healthcare professions require regular accountability to practice the spiritual disciplines in order to remain in close relationship with God. Their well to pour into others will dry up if not continually refilled by the Word, Spirit and people of God. Many of us fall into the trap of becoming professional saviors instead of recipients and ambassadors of the gift(s) of the Savior.
Sabbath keeping requires intentional practice. Is that legalism? No, it is part of a deepening relationship with God as part of the children of God who long to be one with the Lord. If you haven’t already done such, follow Justin’s encouragement to:
- Pick a 24-hour period which matches your schedule. As Justin, I find Saturday evening (with some work Saturday afternoon) to Sunday evening (with some work afterward) a good match for my weekly rhythm. I know this will vary in the journey of medical school, residency, practice, etc. But through my academic, familial and campus ministry journey, I have found seasons of consistency a true blessing. My next step is to better communicate that my “calendar is full” (i.e., an appointment) with friends and colleagues, especially via online platforms and automatic email replies.
- Choose what you’re doing/not doing to provide focus and accountability.
- Communal sabbaths, especially shared meals – a time of blessing which grows over weeks, months and years. Yes, the impact is much more apparent in retrospect.
Over what 24-hour period are you going to celebrate Sabbath in the coming week? Who is going to join with you and/or hold you accountable? When time permits, more on Sabbath. Stay tuned.
To God be the glory!
When we practice Sabbath this week, turn our complete attention to you. Grant us the grace to confess that although we desire “the world” (or “our” niche of it) to depend upon us, “the world” (or “our” niche of it) depends upon you. We confess that each one of us depends upon you. As our Christ-centered work – rich with the abundant fruit of the Spirit – is only by and through your grace, may we find our much-needed rest, strength and renewal in you to your glory.