Have you ever tried to rest one day only to find yourself binging on Netflix and feeling just as worn out? Time and time again, I have tried to justify being a couch potato as “Sabbath rest.” In the busyness of our daily lives, pausing for physical rest is definitely important. Yet, physical rest alone is not sufficient for the holistic rest that God calls us to in him. It is equally necessary and beneficial to rest spiritually as well.
What is Spiritual Rest?
Spiritual rest, however, is not as easily definable as physical rest. Nevertheless, if we are to completely entrust our complete lives over to God as we Sabbath, then we must understand what this looks like for our souls. Simply put, if physical rest submits the work of our hands over to God, then spiritual rest submits our hearts.
Spiritually speaking, our hearts are constantly at work in our daily lives. Throughout each day, we designate value to the people and things we prioritize in our lives. This could include anything from our jobs to our relationships. While pouring our hearts out in commitment and affection to each of these things can be rewarding, it can also be draining and damaging.
Think about it like a pitcher of water. The more water I pour out into cups for people to drink, the less water I have in the pitcher. Eventually, the pitcher will run completely dry, that is, unless it is being continually refilled. This is the nature of spiritually practicing the Sabbath.
Unfortunately, refilling your pitcher with water is not a complete solution to the issue. People are drinking this water and filling up themselves as you are refilling yourself. Thus, it is not simply refilling the pitcher that’s important; we have to refill it with good water.
The Good Water of the Gospel
So what is this good water? Jesus answers this question in John 4:13-14 while he is talking to a Samaritan women at a well:
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
According to this passage, our good water comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With it, we are never thirsty, and always in a position to offer water to others. As the various aspects of life tug at our heart and drain the joy of our souls, freshly drinking in the Gospel through spiritual Sabbath replenishes and rejuvenates us as we continue to pursue and grow in living the Gospel, loving the city, and being the church.
Let’s close by looking at three practical ways we can begin to cultivate spiritual Sabbath in our lives.
Disciplines for Spiritual Rest
- Reflect on idols An important step in resting your heart is first identifying anything that is damaging to it. What are you passionate about? What do you seem to prioritize and be most invested in? Are those things a greater love and priority in your life than Jesus? Attaching your heart to God in rest often requires detaching your heart from the things that are taking his place. In the same way that the Gospel requires us to acknowledge our need before we can take hold of God’s provision, spiritual Sabbath requires us to understand the weaknesses of our heart and then trust God’s love is sufficient.
- Meditate on truth Although spiritual Sabbath is for the heart, it always requires engaging the head. Right affections for God flow out of right thinking about God. The idea of meditation can be confusing given its various uses in other religious traditions, but, for the Christian, it essentially entails cultivating reverent attention towards the things of God. No truth about God is void of life application. As you read your Bible and engage in God’s creation, take time to quietly reflect on how God’s truth impacts every aspect of your life and allow the truth of God to fill your heart for God.
- Participate in Community When most of us think of Sabbath rest, we think of spending time alone. Yet, this is not the way that God always modeled rest for us in the Bible. While there were times when Jesus left the disciples to be alone and pray, he was always in community with the Father and the Spirit: the rest of the Trinity. In the same way that our pitcher flows out into the lives of others, it is important for us to realize that people are pouring into our pitcher as well. When your heart is heavy and tired, isolation is not always the answer. God has given us the Church as a filling source of encouragement, so we should regularly look to engage in community with people who are able to demonstrate the Gospel to us with their lives.