The Gift of Sabbath

Recently, I’ve been interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines such as silence, solitude, and stillness. These practices are a part of “contemplative spirituality” and correspond nicely with the mindfulness meditation practices I use in my therapy practice and in my own life. (Click here to learn more about the kind of therapy I practice.)

One such discipline is the Sabbath. In ancient Jewish culture, the Sabbath was an observance in which no work was done for a full day, and one could be harshly punished for engaging in even menial work.

Today, we rarely hear about the practice of Sabbath. At the least, we may hear it when we learn the Ten Commandments, or when our parents ask us if we went to church on Sunday. Sabbath seems like something that only monks or followers of Orthodox religions do. Or a Sabbatical is something only pastors or university professors take, after they’ve been hard at work for seven or more years.

A Sabbath is simply a rest from work.

You don’t have to be religious to begin implementing a Sabbath into your life. The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew verb shabbat, meaning “to rest from labor”. A Sabbath is simply a rest from work. Furthermore, a Sabbath can be something you can practice regardless of your circumstances or stage of life.

For Christians, Sabbath is not optional. We know that we are commanded to “keep it holy”. How we do that, and what that looks like, is more open to interpretation. It may look like the more traditional interpretation of setting aside a 24-hour period for which to rest instead of work. But maybe you can’t imagine doing that in your current state. Let me challenge you. Intentional space or margin to rest and care for your self may be exactly what you need.

“If you’re too busy to observe a Sabbath, then you’re just too busy.”

-John Mark Comer

Start where you are.

Start where you are. Start with one hour. One hour of turning off your phone and TV, putting away your tablet, and setting aside your work and chores. Use that time to do whatever is restful for you. What connects you to yourself and provides rest for your soul?

In this way, Sabbath becomes less about a list of rules to follow, a set of rigid do’s and don’ts, and more about creating margin, allowing “space for your soul to breathe”. It is a practice. It is less an obligation to keep, to force oneself to do, and more a gift to receive and enjoy.

Next blog, I hope to talk more practically about what a Sabbath looks like, how I am implementing it in my own life, and how a Sabbath is different than self-care.

To learn more, here are some books and podcasts I’ve enjoyed as I practice a Sabbath:



  • The Next Right Thing with Emily P. Freeman, episodes 40: Keep Your Rest, 87: Create Space, and 88: Come Away for Awhile
  • That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs, episode January 2018 Rhythms: Sabbath + John Mark Comer

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