The Sabbath Risk
Sabbath is a risky thing to try. It puts us in the position of putting God in the position to provide for us. To stop what we are doing, whatever it is – working, tinkering, futzing, worrying, planning – and to actively, consciously ask God to hold the world (and us) together while we stop pretending to hold it all together for a while.
If you know me well, you know that it’s painful for me to write those words. Like most people, I really struggle with Sabbath. No, that’s a euphemism; I stink at it. And yet I believe it and I’m constantly called to it. That God would know humanity (and me) so well as to build a safeguard of faith into the very fabric of time just blows my mind!
It takes concerted effort to stop, but we’re afraid to, for fear of what we’d find. We’re afraid that God really won’t – or can’t – come through for us. But Moses learned this lesson. The Egyptian chariots were bearing down on the Israelites at the edge of the Red Sea, and destruction was imminent. He said to the people: “Do not be afraid. Stand still and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…” (Exodus 14:13)
When it comes to keeping the Sabbath, the risk that’s required is, ironically, the risk to stop. And that is hard for us to do. A Young Life leader named Fil Anderson was asked to lead a men’s retreat. When he arrived, the men were ready for man-stuff: issues to grapple with, sports, masculine bonding time, perhaps a frosty malt beverage, and maybe even some arm-wrestling. What Fil Anderson had planned was time in silence with God. The men were very uneasy; one, in particular, was about ready to go home, but he decided to give it a chance.
After a day of uninterrupted time with God, the man reported to the group:
“I was a bit apprehensive when I discovered what we were going to be doing, or not doing, here. I don’t remember the last time I felt so threatened and afraid. I’m used to being in total control. I didn’t like having my props taken from me. The things I usually count on to keep me busy were taken away: no calls to make, no people to talk to, no appointments to keep, no mail to open, no television to distract me, nowhere to go. All that was left was me…the one I’m always trying to avoid… But to my great surprise, I wasn’t alone. God was with me. I’ve never enjoyed a more profound awareness of God’s presence. God’s love for me has never felt so near or real. Once I faced my needy condition, God began to restore and heal me.” (Fil Anderson, Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers, p. 75.)
My prayer today is that in the midst of all that the Coronavirus is bringing your way (or whatever else your life consists of today), you would practice a conscious Sabbath risk, seek God, and realize that he is seeking you. And I'll do the same.
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.