Rest is a word we don’t hear a lot about in our culture. As a general rule, Western culture and society places value on things that are productive and useful and people too are often valued to the level of contribution they can make.
God’s idea of rest is a stark contrast in the face of an incessant need for efficiency. God’s design for rest is for us to be separated from activity. To enjoy God’s presence and to trust Him for provision.
This year, COVID-19 has forced so many of us to become separated from activity. Restrictions related to the access of public spaces, home gatherings and even our workplaces have become part of our lives. We have been separated from people too, in so many of our usual means of connecting with others. l am in my sixth consecutive month of working from home. I have been separated from my colleagues, some of my duties, as well as from social activities, church ministry, even my own family.
As the year has worn on, a passage I have been sitting in is Leviticus 25. This passage describes the Year of Sabbath (rest) God gifted to His people, the Israelites, every 7 years. In communication with the Holy Spirit, I have felt that 2020 is to be a Year of Sabbath for myself personally. This has been in a way like pressing a massive reset button on my life, my behaviours and thought patterns and watching to see what God is restoring and rebuilding.
Some of the changes in my life have included;
Approaching work with the attitude of doing only what has to be done and taking my time to enjoy doing it - (I have had to continue to work a full-time job throughout the year.)
Letting go of any goals I have in mind to achieve professionally and personally – Instead I have prayed to God about a need or desire and left the resolution in His hands. I have found amazing peace through this practice and so much joy and delight as I watch what I am sure is God’s will (without my own intervention) come into fruition.
Enjoying unexpected blessings – Two of my friends have accidentally grown a pumpkin in their back yard. They call this the ‘fruit they never labored for!’ For me this fruit has included a new home, a new job role, new dog to babysit, new opportunities to explore faith with a dear friend in Victoria via Zoom Alpha, experiences of doing life with new friends and journeying in new seasons of life with people I love.
Accepting a slower pace of life and turning my attention towards people – God has opened my eyes to people in my life who I have never really noticed before. He has allowed me to look beyond tasks and seek to love the people He has placed alongside me. I have had the opportunity to connect meaningfully with people as God prompts. Often this also involves showing generosity and hospitality.
More consistently meeting to spend time with God in His word and to pray – I feel I can hear God’s voice more clearly and with less distractions. I can hear my own thoughts and emotions better too and allow God to speak into my life.
Continuation of a weekly Sabbath in which I do no work, home chores or anything productive – I usually Sabbath on Saturdays by reading, spending time with God and with family or friends. This way I can keep Sunday’s for getting ready for the week ahead.
Retreating one day per month – To enjoy creation and to experience God’s presence.
These practices have resulted in greater revelation of who God is and who I am in this season. The most important of these has been the understanding of God’s love for me as I am. Even when I have nothing to offer, or I am completely unproductive. Actually, nothing I can do can earn his love or his blessing. God has already gifted these things to me. I have only to accept the gift.
Although I have understood God’s love for me in varying degrees of my relationship with Him over the last 14 years, to actually experience the love of God in the midst of a year of nearly complete unproductivity has been a wonder-inducing experience. I have also experienced the freedom of God as I continue to acknowledge and release control of my life to Him. I can let go of everything that is on my to-do list, of all the should do’s, of every expectation that has been placed on myself, of all the responsibility that I feel. Nothing is dependent on me; Christ has done it all. I can experience God’s gift of rest because He is totally and always in control and He is good.
Maybe a Year of Sabbath is an extreme endeavor. We have the opportunity to enter God’s rest at any moment we call out to Him and surrender our control unto Him. However, the experience of Sabbath rest one day per week could be a key discipline which unlocks so much of God’s blessing in your life. Why not give it a try?