Mart Martin, an executive for a major corporation, knew he needed to make a change in his life. “I had filled up every available moment of life. I filled the time with extra work for my career by working late and on weekends. I was also so involved in community work and church work that I had squeezed any personal time out of my life. I thought I was doing what I was supposed to be doing so it was okay to be tired and worn out all the time.” Mart says he had no time for himself, much less for God. He was burned out.

His story may sound familiar. Whether at the office, home, church, or elsewhere, we work hard all the time and find it difficult to slow down. We are driven to achieve, to produce, to finish a to-do list that will never get done. It’s hard to rest when there’s so much to do! Yet, that’s what God expects, even commands us to do in scripture. We often dismiss it as impossible — we’re just too busy — but those who keep the Sabbath say we ignore it to our detriment.

Take a Break
When she lived in Israel years ago, Lynne Baab, author of Sabbath Keeping (InterVarsity Press), learned to observe the Sabbath because there, it was a day of quiet without many options. When she and her husband returned to the United States, they decided to bring that same spirit to their Sundays here.

“The Sabbath is a weekly day of rest and worship,” she says. “It’s having a day where you focus on being, rather than on being productive.” It’s not about obedience and duty. “It’s about learning how to receive from God, about having a day to focus on how blessed we are rather than what we lack, a day to thank God for His blessings and rest in his abundance.”

It’s also about resting in God’s sovereignty, in the knowledge that God is in control and we are not, according to Mark Buchanan, lead pastor of a growing church and author of The Rest of God (W Publishing Group). In Psalms 46:10 God calls us to “be still and know that I am God.” The Sabbath allows us, encourages us to do that.

But… But…
If we stop working for a whole day, won’t we get even further behind? Since he started observing Sabbath rest four years ago and stopped working on Sundays, Mart Martin says, “Nothing bad happened. I wasn’t any more behind than before. I was not in trouble for not working. It was all somehow taken care of.”

On top of that, he has done it for so long that now he can block out nagging issues at the office. “I’ve grown much closer to God. It gives me something to look forward to during the week, and I don’t start the week as stressed as before.”

Most Sabbath-keepers actually accomplish more and focus better during the week. “The irony of it (which is implicit in scripture) is that it leads to greater productivity,” says Mark. The gift of rest results in heightened productivity, more energy, and more joy.

Observing the Sabbath has given him “the capacity to savor and cherish simple things, such as reading to my daughters. My enjoyment of the moment has increased. So much of our lives [is spent] rushing past things.”

Another benefit of Sabbath-keeping is that it establishes a restful rhythm in our lives. While standing in line at the bank, instead of getting impatient and irritated, Lynne rests for a moment in a Sabbath attitude. During a busy day, Mark often feels an inner prompting to put aside his work and rest his mind and spirit. Keeping the Sabbath one day a week allows us to enjoy that attitude the rest of the week as well.