5 ways to maximize your day of rest

In 1.5 years of blogging, I don’t think I’ve taken a post I’ve written for another blog and posted it here–until today. This posted yesterday at HomeWord.com (as one of their daily devotionals) and it has created a lot of conversation with the group of leaders I’ve been meeting with and speaking to at the Orange Conference. So, I thought I’d re-post it here.

Leaders are in need of rest!

For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. —Exodus 20:11

It seems as though almost daily I read an email from a Christian leader who is tired and burnt out. There is so much about life that is exhausting! I know this firsthand. It’s real and it’s ugly.

Many leaders don’t even slow down enough to be faithful to God’s call for Sabbath, which simply means, to rest. I received some great advice early on from a mentor who urged me to faithfully guard and protect that day of rest. My mentor was right!

But, without intentional action, it’s simply too easy to slip into justifying non-Sabbath actions like, “I’m just going to pop into the office,” or “I’m so far behind, I just need to catch up.”

I’m afraid that many Christian leaders have little clue about what the Sabbath is or how it is observed. Certainly among Christians (in general), there are many different views and practices of the Sabbath. There’s no doubt that it can get confusing.

I understand that the Sabbath doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all experience, but for what it’s worth, here’s how I typically approach my day. On the Sabbath day, I want to experience as many of the following as possible:

• Relaxation. I take it easy. I sleep in. I don’t fill the day with a lot of activities. I try to maintain an attitude of rest throughout the day.

• Recreation. I usually feel better and accelerate my rest after some form of exercise. It may be at the gym, but it’s usually a long walk or hike with my wife, Cathy.

• Relationships. Any time I choose to spend time with someone on my Sabbath, it is a relationship that inspires me, breathes into me, and is rewarding for me. No work, just friendship.

• Reading. For me, so much of my reading during the week focuses on speaking or sermon preparation. So, for my Sabbath, I choose light and fun reading.

• Reflection/Restoration. Reflection describes my extended time with God. I’ll usually reflect on the past week, look through my calendar, and think about what I might have missed that God had laid out for me.

There is no usual order to these areas. I just try to experience them all throughout the day.

My prayer is that the Sabbath becomes a weekly day of refreshment for you and your family, and an anticipated highlight of your week!

Question: What’s the obstacle in your life toward making this happen? I bet you’re not alone. Please share it here.

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  • Nickjoediffarn

    I work full time at the church but I also have to keep a part time job to make ends meet. As a result my sabbath is Saturday which is the only day I have to take care of things around the house. I try hard to relax on that day and it’s not every Saturday that a project has to be done but it is often enough that my day off from the church (Monday) and my days off from my other job (sat and sun) ne’er seem to be enough to get the time I know is healthy for me.

    • Doug Fields

      It’s good that you recognize that it’s not a healthy, sustainable pace. I’m praying of you right now to have wisdom to know what to do.

  • Carlton

    Similar to the first comment, but I am starting the position of head youth leader in a volunteer role, while working a normal Monday through Friday full time job. Our youth group meets on Sunday nights. So, like the other poster I too only have Saturday as the primary day to do anything, and no way can that just be one day of relaxation. Oh and did I mention that I have 3 younger kids who need the large portion of my Saturday?

    • Doug Fields

      That’s a tough position to be in.. I don’t know what the answer is, but you can’t keep a pace of 7 days a week without Sabbath (at least and not be healthy for the long-term).

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    Growing up and all through Bible college I always heard about the long hours that ministers need to put into their weeks. I heard stories of 50-60 hour work weeks, leaving little time for rest. I think this shaped the way I viewed ministry for a while. I felt a little guilty when I called off my week at 40 hours, or just a little over. I felt like maybe I needed to work on my day off. After all, the men who were telling me about these long weeks had done some amazing things in their ministries! But I have stuck to my guns. I may work over 40 hours some weeks but I always guard my day off. It is a time to refresh so that I can be ready for the next week. It is the only day that I can spend it completely with my wife and son (soon to be sons!). We all look forward to it. I am more able to guard that day because I know they are expecting me to. 

    • Doug Fields

      Way to go Brandon! Good job protecting your day off.

  • Sue LW

    The obstacles in my life are expectations that are not of God. I too have work, ministry, and family responsibilities that leave me with longer ‘to do’ lists each week, all of which are good, but burn me out when I approach them in my own power with the expectation that I will fulfill each perfectly. When I had three preschoolers and was on the verge of a breakdown, I realized through a friend that Sabbath looks differently in different seasons. Sometimes Sabbath is an afternoon away…sometimes it is intentional time with my kids without an agenda…sometimes it is an hour on my knees…Too often, I even approach a Sabbath rest with expectations that implode on me. Thanks for sharing your list, Doug. Such a great reminder!

  • AbrahamStein

    Pastor Rick Warren (Saddleback) has a message on these 5 things to do with your Sabbath that really helped me alot. I’ve kept my notes from his 1986 series on the Ten Commandments part 5  and I still refer to it.  What to do on the Sabbath: 1. Rest my body, 2. Refocus my spirit (through worship)  3. Refresh my emotions ( through recreation, quetness, & music) 4. Reconnect my relationships (with family & with believers) , 5 Recharge my mind (through reading & reflection.  The sermon is online and it is called TAKING TIME OUT.

  • Jill

    Like most of the other posters, working on Sunday seems to throw things off. When you take a day off (or in my case two) during the week and the rest of the world is working, it’s difficult to justify rest.
    I have intentionally scheduled volunteer time for my days off. I only “work” for an hour. It’s away from my home, so I’m not sucked in to laundry or cleaning. There are no computers involved to pull me into work. & the volunteering I do is relaxing and gives me time to stretch my brain and see new things (I volunteer in a museum).
    A side bonus is the relationships I’ve formed with other volunteers and staff (keeping me attached to a world away from my Christian huddle). I also set aside a few dollars a week for a cup of tea and time to just sit outside and enjoy the peace.
    That said, I do find myself working 50 plus hours a week on top of family obligations. It’s my responsibility to care for my body, mind and spirit. I’m willing to push it a bit for a while, but not for the long haul. It’s not healthy and it’s denying members of my church opportunities to grow and serve.
    So, I would say, it’s a work in progress. (& I loved your approach!)

  • Bryan

    I agree with many of the other posters. I’ve been the volunteer youth director at my church for 2 1/2 years and work 45 hrs a week Monday-Saturday with Wednesday off. Of course this happens to be the only night that my parents can get their kids to our weekly Bible Study. With teaching Sunday School and running Sunday night youth group I also struggle to find the Sabbath. Case in point, I just returned from our weekend youth retreat and work today from 9-8 (whoops, writing this on my lunch break). Thanks for the encouraging words.

  • http://twitter.com/Elev8MyFaith Elev8MyFaith

    Great words of wisdom.  Always good for a refresher for a lot of people.  Thank you for sharing and God bless.