SABBATH: On being quiet, still and at rest.

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and striving after wind.” (Ecc. 4:6)

How right the author of Ecclesiastes was, and how applicable to my life today! So often I find myself longing for a “handful of quietness” in the midst of the toil and striving of my everyday life. However, this desire for quietness before my God is somewhere deep inside, buried under my desire to “be productive” and my inability to say “no” to the plethora of good things I could potentially be involved in. I fly around checking things off my to-do list and, even when I’ve accomplished most of my tasks, I can’t shut off my brain. There’s always something else I could be doing. Someone else who could use my help. Another situation that needs my input (but does is really? Or is that my foolish pride talking?). Another program or activity that would benefit from my contribution (again, did someone say pride??).

Then, on days like today, I discover that I’m utterly spent and on the verge of breaking down if I don’t just…

STOP.

So I stop, more out of necessity than by choice, and take what my sister, Mel, calls “a sabbath” (she has an awesome blog that you can check out: http://www.nearerstill.com/).

Today was the first sabbath I’ve taken in a long time…so much so that I can’t even remember when the last one was! So what is “a sabbath”? It’s a day to spend with God in His word and in prayer…a day of rest and relaxation, where I take a break from all of the everyday responsibilities that clutter my normal days and do the things that I enjoy…the things that make my soul thrive instead of shriveling. 

And before anyone gets up-in-arms about the term “sabbath” and thinks I’m returning to a legalistic adherence to law, let’s have a quick look at Hebrews 4:8-10…

For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

This “sabbath” I speak of is not a legalistic keeping of a “holy day.” After all, Colossians 2:16-17 says:

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to … a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Sabbath that was mandated/commanded in the Old Testament was a shadow of the rest that was to come to the people of God. The substance of that rest is now found in CHRIST! We don’t have to work for our salvation, striving to be “good enough” for God. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” on the cross; and it was! He did the work we couldn’t do, so that we can be at peace with Him and find rest in Him. Added to this, we are wrong if we do away with the principle of resting, because God Himself rested from His work. Hebrews clearly tells us that “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” So why don’t I take hold of what Jesus made available to me on the cross? Why do I persist with my striving, incessantly busy, teeth-grinding obsession with my to-do lists? Why don’t I build margin into my life that allows me to keep a right perspective, remembering that it’s not what I do that matters so much as what He has done?

You see, one of the biggest problems with my inability to quiet myself and rest is that it skews my view of God. Psalm 46:10 says,

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

Here we see the direct link between being still, and knowing that God is God. All my rushing around and being consumed with other things truly becomes an unproductive “striving after wind” because I lose sight of the power and glory of God. He becomes small while everything else in my life looms large before my eyes.

This inability to rest is an even bigger problem for me now that I have a darling baby girl growing inside me. I have read all about the dangers of stress in pregnancy, such as preterm labor and the baby having a low birth weight. Yet I’m also thinking about the other consequences of my stress…the eternal consequences. After all, what I want most for my daughter is for her to know God. I want her to be a little girl at rest…peaceful in the knowledge of her loving God who is sovereign…knowing that she is safe in His hands. But how will she know this? How will she functionally experience this truth if mummy – who is one of the people she is most likely to learn from and imitate – is frazzled and struggling to see Jesus through the forest of commitments and flurry of activity?

Something has to change. Not only for my sanity, but for the sake of the little life that God has graciously blessed me with.

So I started today knowing that I needed a day of rest, but unsure of how to “shut off” and finding it to be an EFFORT to just relax and do nothing. I was feeling much like Job when he said:

My inward parts are in turmoil and never still (Job 30:27)…I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest… (Job 3:26)

Yet we have hope in a God who, by his power, stilled the sea (Job 26:12), and that same God has stilled and quieted me today.

So for those of you who, like me, have days when stillness seems miles away, take comfort in the words of God:

Fear not… let not your hands grow weak.17 The Lord your God is in your midst,  a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

The Words of our God are true. He is able to do what we can’t do. So…

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not…” (Ps. 37:7)

“In returning/repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Is. 30:15)