The Beautiful, Life-Giving Practice of Sabbath

by Kelsey Yarnell

About six months ago, I made the leap from the 9-to-5 grind to full-time freelance writing.

While I love the freedom and flexibility that freelancing offers me, it also means that at any given time, I‘m probably writing, invoicing, or pitching prospective clients.

This also means that at any given time, I feel productive – like I’m doing something worthwhile and “valuable” (In other words, a task that will help me make more money).

Even for those who aren’t freelancers, entrepreneurs, or solopreneurs, many of us are still able to work all the time, all week long. It takes only a WiFi connection and electronic device, and we’re plugged in – helping us to generate more income, or at the very least, feel less stressed about not working.

While the ancient Israelites of the Bible didn’t work on laptop computers, use social media marketing, or post profiles on LinkedIn, they still faced the same challenge that we do: Taking a step back from work to rest.

That’s exactly why taking a Sabbath – a day of rest – is a Biblical mandate, not a suggestion. Sabbath isn’t a cop-out for being lazy; it’s a God-given foundation for a full, healthy life.

In Exodus 20, God commands His people to take a Sabbath (along with not murdering, stealing, or lying):

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

(Exodus 20:8-11)

Clearly, the primary reason for taking a Sabbath is to honor God. But I also believe that Sabbath is restorative to our souls and our bodies in a way that is counter-cultural….and that can ultimately help us live healthier, more productive lives. 

We Need to Rest

It’s no secret that burnout, anxiety, and stress plague our culture. The irony is that the solution to stress can often feel like increasing your workload to make more money, or working all weekend to reduce your “to-do list.”

While I’m all for working on a Sunday afternoon or Saturday morning to prepare for the week ahead or to build your side hustle, I do believe Scripture is clear: Take a day to rest.

I’ll admit that taking a Sabbath can feel extremely difficult – even painful ­– when deadlines loom, obligations stack up, and financial responsibilities are ever-simmering on our mental back-burners.

But here’s what I’ve found: On the weekends when I’ve refused to practice a Sabbath – which, for me, begins with not writing, performing any work-related task, or checking my email – I’m less productive on the days following.

I feel anxious, stressed, and burned out…and it’s only Monday.

When I give myself a full day to rest, and the permission to read a book, sit in the sunshine, and journal with absolutely zero agenda, I am far more driven and creative during the following week.

In fact, I’m convinced that I ultimately get more done by refusing to work for a full 24 hours each week. I finish Sabbath feeling centered and re-focused: refreshed to take on long, busy days ahead.

Ultimately, Sabbath can be an exercise in trust. God wants us to trust Him – not a packed schedule – to provide for our needs, our finances, even our personal value.

After college, I had a very driven, disciplined roommate that found it difficult to practice Sabbath because she was in an intensive program to become a physical therapist. But she still did it, because she trusted God with her academic success.

And guess what? He sustained her, and she more than succeeded at her program…even with a full day off every week.

Some Things I’ve Learned About Sabbath

I’m no theologian, so I won’t attempt to teach you what Sabbath should look like from a Biblical perspective. But I will share what I know from implementing this practice of rest (imperfectly) in my own life:

  • I think part of Sabbath is choosing to not engage in your typical activities, beyond work. Try taking a break from social media or shopping of any kind – For example, I have a friend that doesn’t buy anything on her Sabbath. I love this idea.

  • Because I work on a screen all week, I generally avoid a lot of screen time on my Sabbath day. While watching TV or looking at Instagram might be relaxing for you, be careful of simply “tuning out” with more digital distraction on your Sabbath.

  • Be disciplined. Taking a Sabbath usually requires a certain amount of intentionality and even scheduling. This week, I took a Sabbath on Sunday, which required me to work on Saturday morning and do quite a bit more work on Monday. It was challenging, but worth it.

  • Sabbath might feel really slow. Don’t be afraid of the time creep. Embrace the long hours and enjoy this God-given day of rest.

Of course, Sabbath is going to look different for everyone in different seasons of life. I wouldn’t expect moms or even married women to be able to rest in the same way as I can.

For that matter, some people must work two jobs in order to sustain their families…Taking a day off of work just isn’t realistic.

Still, I would encourage anyone who can to pursue a form of Sabbath – some period of intentional rest and disconnect from routine.

In a world that can feel chaotic, Sabbath is a pause button for the weary….a much-needed break for the overly busy….and a beautiful, God-given form of worship and rest that works to restore our souls, our minds, and our bodies.

Kelsey is a writer and self-proclaimed hummus addict living in Los Angeles. She looks for creative inspiration in God, people, and good conversation. You can read her lifestyle blog at https://flourish-live-inspired.com/.