Translate Page

Sabbath rest isn't just for Sundays

Getting plenty of rest seems impossible for many of us. Between work, activities, family obligations and endless to-do lists, restorative downtime is hard to find. We all know it’s what our bodies need, but our souls need it, too.

“I go back to the book of Genesis and the creation narrative. God creates the world. Then on the seventh day, it says God rested. Everything rested with God,” says the Rev. Dr. Ron Bell, director of healing and resilience at The Upper Room. “Then on the next day, humanity starts. Out of rest the world begins to move and form. God models for us that we start from a position of rest, not from a position of movement.”

Restful resources

“Our bodies are not made to be ‘on’ 24/7,” adds Deaconess Whitney R. Simpson, spiritual director and campus minister. “We don’t simply need a day off from work, we need margin in our lives and rest around the edges. God longs for us to have sabbath every day so that we can take notice of God’s presence and savor the things God has for us.”

Intentional soul care

“When we are on overload, we are disconnected from ourselves, creation and relationships,” Simpson says. “Without my soul care routine, I can’t reflect and be who I am called to be. Spiritual practices are the pivotal thing for me so that I can share God with other people.”

Rest is critical to everything that we are. – The Rev. Dr. Ron Bell

Breath prayer is an ancient practice that remains beneficial today. Bell explains, “On one hand, we inhale, take in and receive. On the other hand, we exhale, we release. All day long, we are receiving and releasing.

“Rest gives us the ability to release the day, the worries, conversations, anxieties, trauma, pain, thoughts and ideas. When we do that, then God will give us new insights, peace, joy…God will give those to us because we made space by releasing.”

Rest is different for everyone

Rest isn’t just getting more sleep at night and taking naps – although both are healthy habits to embrace! Rest that feeds our minds, bodies and souls can look like anything that brings stillness and draws us closer to God. Bell suggests that rest is a “recentering.”

Help your pastor find rest

Bell observes that many pastors continue to feel the effects of ministry challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Burnout caused by a lack of restful disciplines is common, but healing is possible. Bell says, “Where there are healthy churches, there are healthy pastors.”

  • Encourage your pastor to find and prioritize restorative practices, and support them however you can. This could be a hobby, such as fishing, baking, golfing or painting. They might also need a loving reminder to truly step away on their days off.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, ask if your pastor has a counselor and mentors to support their spiritual and mental health.
  • Be realistic about how quickly things can happen. The pace of pandemic-era ministry isn’t sustainable.

This will be different for each one of us and it doesn’t have to look any certain way. Simpson says, “It’s a mindset, a practice, a discipline and we have to really claim it. How do you take deep breaths and reset your brain?”

Bell reminds that proximity to your cell phone, smartwatch and other devices will interfere with rest. Leave those items behind when you retreat to a restorative space.

Try one of these activities to find what quiets your mind:

  • Take a walk and notice God’s beautiful creation around you
  • Write prayers, reflections or thoughts in a journal
  • Read Scripture or a Bible study guide
  • Knit, draw, play an instrument or enjoy another restful hobby
  • Engage in contemplative prayer or meditation
  • Mindfully, slowly, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
  • Take a long drive and turn off the radio
  • Go to a theatre to see a movie
  • Stretch and take deep breaths as you release tension from your body
  • Lie in the grass and watch the clouds float by

Find time to find peace

Busy people can, and do, find deep, meaningful rest by incorporating it into their routines. Simpson mentions that one of the most meaningful daily meditation practices she’s ever experienced was during the 30 minutes she spent in her car waiting to pick up her child from middle school. Simpson encourages, “It can be a five-minute meditation, and it doesn’t have to be in a perfect, blissful ideal place. It’s what works in your life.”

Bell’s family uses time-blocking – they schedule tasks, and restful activities, for each hour of the day. For example, the family reads together for 30 minutes before bedtime to help them ease into sleep, and then enjoys breakfast together for 30 minutes to begin the day.

Whatever time you find, and whatever practice you adopt, treasure it as a spiritual discipline, as soul care, and prioritize it. The more you care for your own holistic wellbeing, the more you can offer to the world.

“We don’t all have the same needs or knowledge or habits, but we all need rest,” Simpson reminds.

Laura Buchanan works for at United Methodist Communications. Contact her by email.

This story was published on October 30, 2023.

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2024 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved