Years ago, I spent a year living in Zaragoza, Spain, a vibrant city between Barcelona and Madrid. One of highlights of that year was adopting a more European way of life — trading comfy American sneakers for more fashionable dress shoes and developing an addiction to manchego cheese that remains to this day.
Even though I loved my new lifestyle, I never got used to the Spaniards’ relaxed pace. Don’t get me wrong — the Zaragozans worked hard when necessary — but they also maintained a clear distinction between their personal and professional lives. Unlike many Americans, who struggle to carve time off into their schedules, Spaniards set aside Sundays as a day of rest. Aside from the rare bakery that opened to provide Zaragozans with their beloved baguettes, stores closed and traffic calmed as the city’s 700,000 residents enjoyed family dinners and long afternoon naps.
While my Spanish friends may not have realized they were practicing “Sabbath," they instinctively knew they needed this balance of work and rest. We’d do well to follow their example.
As we explored in a previous post, God established the Sabbath to celebrate work well done and to replenish our bodies and souls. The Sabbath is a gift that many choose to leave unopened, but why?
Practicing the Sabbath reveals the inner turmoil that keeps our souls from resting. Only by stepping away from work will we see the issues that drive our labor. It reveals the subtle, yet powerful ways we can become slaves to our jobs. Just as the Israelites were bound by the Egyptians, anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave. Sure, it looks different, showing up in the need for success, materialism, the expectations of others, or our employer’s demands – but it’s slavery nonetheless.
In contrast, choosing to rest one day a week, demonstrates our freedom and trust in God’s provision. We rest in Christ’s finished work for our salvation (Hebrews 4:1-10), not our ability to save ourselves. Author Tim Keller writes in Every Good Endeavor:
“God appointed the Sabbath to remind us that he is working and resting. To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward.”
5 Principles for Deep Rest
Sabbath is commonly defined as a 24-hour period in which you step away from work, whether that comes in the form of a 9 to 5 job or household chores. The goal is not to be legalistic about obeying a set of rules, but to set aside time to appreciate and enjoy what God’s done. Have fun experimenting with Sabbath practices to find what works for your unique life.
(1) Make time for worship: Set aside time to reflect on your week and connect with God. This may take the form of corporate worship with your local church, a prayerful walk, or time in Scripture.
(2) Pursue delight: Take a nap, enjoy a relaxing meal, do something recreational or creative that contrasts what you do in your daily work. Keller encourages his readers to do something “avocational”, a hobby that is different from your main occupation.
(3) Unplug from your technology: Seriously! You may feel removed from the outside world, but that’s the goal — and the secret to true refreshment. For example, a student might refrain from studying, while an office worker wouldn’t check email or take work-related phone calls. Be prepared to graciously clarify your availability to friends or colleagues.
(4) Recognize that various stages of life practice Sabbath differently: Parents of young children may find it difficult to take 24-hours off from the daily work of raising kids, but you can strive to preserve the spirit of Sabbath. For example, begin a habit of afternoon quiet time for the entire family, take a nap, or spend time playing together.
(5) Prepare for your Sabbath: A truly restful Sabbath requires intentionality. Plan ahead to make the day special and to keep outside pressures from invading your time. The pressures of daily life will creep back in if you don’t guard your Sabbath hours.
If you practice the Sabbath, I’d like to know what works for you. How do you find deep rest? Share your thoughts in our 10-minute survey. Your time could be worth $50!.
Joanna serves as Denver Institute’s Director of Public Engagement, hosts the Faith & Work Podcast, and founded Women, Work, & Calling, a national initiative that disciples women for godly influence in public life. Prior to coming to the Institute, Joanna worked in global telecom, nonprofit consulting, and campus ministry with Cru. She served as associate faculty at Denver Seminary and as a sewing instructor at Fancy Tiger Crafts. A third-generation Coloradan, Joanna appreciates both the state’s innovative culture and its cowboy roots. She has an MA in Social Entrepreneurship from Bakke Graduate University and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She also completed a certificate of Women in Leadership through Cornell University.
She is the author of Women, Work, & Calling: Step Into Your Place in God’s World (IVP, Fall 2023) and is a contributor to the multi-author book, Women & Work: Bearing God’s Image and Joining in His Mission through our Work (B&H Publishing, Spring 2023).