Taking a Digital Sabbath

Photo from skitterphoto.com

Photo from skitterphoto.com

I'll admit, it's hard for me to rest. I like to have something in front of me to do, to see, to be immersed in. I have to fight for stillness and calm. Maybe you can relate.

It's funny to contrast that sentiment with the times when I have intentionally made space for rest and the peace and encouragement from God I've experienced in those times. Every time I wonder, "Why don't I do this more often?"

Hopefully, you saw in my last post that just being aware of the reality our attachment to our tech can begin to call us to a more balanced way of living. I want to look at a few ways we can live with our tech without it dominating our attention.

In the Bible, God implemented a season of rest for the Israelites called the Sabbath. This Sabbath was to be regularly practiced, and it gave the people intentional time to consider their relationship to God and to one another. 

This Sabbath may seem like a limitation being imposed by God, but it was really meant for the people's benefit. While they couldn't do everything they wanted to do during a Sabbath, they were able to experience the rest God knew they needed.

There is so much good that can come from how tech is used in our world. The advances in research, communication, healthcare, etc. should make us grateful for the age we live in. 

At the same time, I am afraid that the ease of access to digital content and the proliferation of our smart devices leads many of us to commit screen gluttony more often than not. We click, tap, and stare without boundaries around our lives and our time to the point of over-indulgence.

For followers of Jesus, we've been called to grow in love for him and for other people, to not get wrapped up in the popular desires of our society (1 John 2:15-16). The practice of Sabbath helps to keep our priorities in check.

So what would it look like to live out a digital Sabbath? 

In case you're wondering, "digital" + "Sabbath" does not equal Netflix & chill. It's resting from the tech we use, not with it.

According to research from the Barna Group, fewer than one in ten Christian families take anything that even looks like a regular digital Sabbath.1

David Kinnaman and Jun Young offer some suggestions for integrating a digital Sabbath in our normal routines.

- Many of us don’t have proper boundaries with technology during the week because we sleep with and wake up next to our smartphones. So shoot for a full day a week when you turn off all your digital devices (or at least reserve them for true communication like phone calls and Skype chats with distant family and friends). Give yourself a true break from the screens in your life.2

-We can also apply the Sabbath concept to everyday life, generally trying to spend less time online each day. We like to call it 'going analog.' Replace screen time with more face time. Take long walks. Invite a friend to have coffee with you.3

- Digital Sabbath practices for you may be more about reshaping your everyday technology habits — the ones that lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, distracted, and fragmented. Such practices might include intentionally planning what three hours a day you’ll respond to email, the rest of the time minimizing your email screen and turning off the alert badge. Using your phone only for communication during your work day (no Twitter or sports scores or Instagram). Setting your phone in a basket by your front door when you walk in at night and leaving it there until bedtime.4

These are just some ideas, but the general principle of a digital Sabbath, whether weekly or baked into our daily life, is regular replacement of screentime with God-time and people-time. It takes awareness and intentionality, but creating this kind of rhythm in your life might actually make it easier to live with excellence in our digital, connected world.

What do you think about digital Sabbaths? Would they work in your context? Why/why not? I'd love to chat about your thoughts and perspectives, so share comments/questions on Twitter or Facebook.

And be sure to come out Thurs, Jan. 14 to CityView, where we'll discuss together how the way we use technology affects our lives and relationships. It's at 7:00 pm at the Vintage Arts Center (4523 Magazine St.), and I hear there's king cake coming. Hope to see you there.


1 Jun Young & David Kinnaman, The Hyperlinked Life: Live with Wisdom in an Age of Information Overload (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 68.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Young & Kinnaman, 68-69.