Sometimes I struggle to get Sabbath rest. I know we're not under the Old Testament law, but I believe Sabbath rest is a useful principle that goes all the way back to the original seventh day when God rested and blessed the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3). Even bodybuilders recognize that you should only work out six days per week maximum. If you try to work out all seven days, you'll actually hurt your muscle growth more than you help it. The principle of Sabbath rest is a blessing to man, designed for his benefit.
Knowing this, it is still hard for me to set my work aside and forget about it. I don't usually observe this rest on a specific day of the week; it normally consists of a one-day rest period once a week, starting sometime Saturday and ending twenty-four hours later.
During one such rest period, I was just starting hour twenty-two, and it was not going so well. I had not rested the entire time. My thoughts were preoccupied with work. My mind kept drifting back to doors that had recently opened, and how I could make the most of those opportunities. Right after the church service that day, I had asked one of the leaders if he would grant me an interview for a magazine I was working for. He said yes, and it was all I could think about for the next couple of hours.
Around the time I was finally about to sit down and relax, my three-year-old son Gavin came out of his room. My wife and I had put him down for a nap almost two hours prior and he hadn't slept a wink. One minute he was messing with his brother, the next he was on the floor rolling around. We later tried putting him in our bed to see if he would go to sleep in there. Instead, he got into all kinds of things in our room and made a mess. At last, he got up and walked down the hallway toward me. I was letting him know through my facial expression that I wasn’t very happy.
He looked at me with a sly grin, and I couldn't help but smile back. I said, "Gavin, why didn't you go to sleep? You're supposed to take a nap."
"But I was back there so long!" he whined.
I said, "Yes, you were back there so long, but you didn't even take a nap."
And that's when I realized I had just done the same thing.
The time had passed no matter what Gavin was doing. He didn't really do anything fun for those two hours. He didn’t really enjoy the time. He sat there in the dark rolling around, restless and unwilling to get the rest he so desperately needed.
I wasn’t mad at Gavin, but I knew he was probably going to get tired later on. Resting is really for his own good. In the same way, I had been preoccupied with some things and it was keeping me from the rest that I needed. I knew God wasn’t mad at me. But I probably could have used the rest.
Some people struggle to set work aside and get rest more than others. For those of us that struggle, it’s best to develop discipline. For instance, we can turn off notifications on our phone. We can discipline ourselves not to check email or text messages. Another good practice is to avoid social media if yours is somehow related to your work. Last, it’s best to set down the phone altogether while at church or having family time. Freeing ourselves from mental and emotional distractions is a major key to getting meaningful rest.