Embracing this countercultural act of trust and praise

Written by William Dmytrow

I’ve often heard the idea of Sabbath rest referred to quite negatively. Some people say, “I don’t rest because Satan never rests” or “It’s selfish to take time off, the Lord’s work never ceases.”

These attitudes were very destructive for me in my apprenticeship to Jesus. When I eventually learned to embrace Sabbath as a day to be refreshed, it became the day I most look forward to all week. Now, when I don’t take a Sabbath day, I feel exhausted the next week.

Rest is a part of human identity. We need it. Not just physical rest either, but also mental rest, spiritual rest, and emotional rest. It may seem counterintuitive, but I believe practising the Sabbath is crucial in our selfish society where everything centres around “me.”

Many of us don’t set aside a day to rest

In 2017, the Barna Group reported that only 15 per cent of Christ-followers try to follow the Sabbath. That is a dauntingly low statistic. Jesus invites us to set aside a day to rest and reflect on our week and the beautiful things we were able to do.

Sabbath means putting a pause on our work and to-do lists. It is a rest for our souls and time to delight in God; the result is nothing less than worshipping God.

Sabbath in a selfish world

Western society has increasingly over-emphasized individualization. It is about “what I want to do,” “what’s best for me,” “I do me, you do you.”

As Christ followers, we have a high call to be selfless. Jesus profoundly states, “the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). This is the opposite of doing only what’s best for us individually. It means giving up our time and resources to serve God and others.

I am reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Despite the major racial tensions between Jews and Samaritans, the Samaritan put aside these differences and showed selfless love by rescuing the half-dead man. Through this story, Jesus taught that love means moving towards others even when it doesn’t serve our interests. It isn’t convenient love.

However, that love cannot come at the expense of burnout and restlessness. My own problem was that when I became passionate for the Lord, I began to believe people needed my love, only to forget what they really needed was God’s love. 

We are called to be selfless, yet we cannot save ourselves. That is the point—humans have limitations. Not only do we need God’s love and salvation, but our physical and emotional limitations mean we still need rest.

And this is why Sabbath is crucial in a selfish world. It is an act of trust that God will continue to do His good work without us. Not only does Sabbath enable us to rest, but it reminds us that people really need Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, not you or me.