Sabbath thinking: Rest for the Soul

How in this noisy world can we find rest for our souls?

“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

— Psalm 23:1-3

Throughout the ages, Psalm 23 has consoled many a distressed heart in need of rest and renewal. Travelers on the journey cling to these words of assurance and hope.

Like a pleasant perfume, the call to rest and renewal permeates both the Old and New Testament. Even the Omnipotent One rested on the seventh day after creating all that is.

“Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed…God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.”

Repetition is a pedagogical tactic. The more you are exposed to something the more likely it will be engrained in the fabric of your being. Do you think perhaps God is trying to make a point by this recurring theme — perhaps leading by example?

The Lord’s intent is clear in Exodus 23:12: “For six days you may do your work, but on the seventh day you must rest, that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and that the son of your maidservant and the resident alien may be refreshed.”

One of my most cherished bible verses, an invitation to restoration, can be found in Isaiah 55: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water.” The words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew soothes my soul like a gentle breeze on a warm summer day: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus withdrew from the world entering the wilderness to prepare his heart and soul for what lied ahead. Throughout his time on earth, he spent time in seclusion refreshing his spirit and suggested that we too go to our “inner room” to pray.

Our Creator not only calls his people to rest, but we learn in the Old Testament that he insisted on rest for the land as well: “For six years you may sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyard, gathering in their produce. But during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath for the LORD, when you may neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:3, 4).

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Not only is rest beneficial for humanity and the land, the seasons testify to the value enjoyed by all of nature by periods of repose. Creation lies dormant during the winter months only to celebrate in the springtime with green leaves filling the trees and colorful flowers dotting the landscape.

Undoubtedly we live in a fast paced world. Productivity is idolized. Idle hands are berated. Technology has captured our wellbeing as we are glued to our phones, our computers, and our headsets. How in this noisy world can we find rest for our souls?

Spiritual renewal requires intentionality and priority setting. It’s imperative that we design our days, weeks, months, and years to include ample time for Sabbath rest. Our welfare depends on it. Without it, we will fall prey to the hazards of burn out, boredom, depression, anxiety, and physical illness. We put intimacy with God and others at risk when we neglect our spiritual health.

As stated by Marjorie J Thompson, a Presbyterian pastor, in her book, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life:

Sabbath is the profoundly joyful refreshment from which new effort arises, the deep well from which we draw strength, the eternal newness at the root of all creativity. Therefore Sabbath is a primary experience of grace – the gift that enables our human journey day upon day, week upon week.

Douglas Rumford, a Presbyterian pastor, in his book, Soul Shaping: Taking Care of Your Spiritual Life compares our soul to a lake, “an inner reservoir — which supports the fluctuating weights and stresses that strain the stage of our lives.” He reminds us that to be effective “this reservoir must be continually replenished.” He invites us to reflect on Jesus words in the Gospel of John: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”

Perhaps today is a good time to reflect on the practices you employ to restore the wellbeing of your soul.

  • Have you allowed busyness to trump rest at the expense of your spiritual, emotional, and physical health?
  • Has endless activity jeopardized your relationship with God and others? Is your spirit in need of a recharge?
  • Is the “being” and “doing” aspects of your life in balance?
  • Does your calendar need to be fine-tuned to allow needed rest for your soul?
  • Are you thirsting for the living water generously offered by our Maker?
  • Do you long for the fullness of life available to all in God?

 Note: New articles in this series are posted to the website every Monday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles.

[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]

Image above by 9883074 from Pixabay

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