Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Need of Sabbath

by Martin Wiles @LinesFromGod

I told them the story and watched the confusion lines crisscross their faces.

One thing I love about teaching middle schoolers entails telling them stories about how things were when I was their age—and things differed greatly, especially on Sunday. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I perceived Sunday as a different day. Of course, it would have been for me anyway since my dad pastored churches.

Sunday was the day we attended church—twice, once in the morning and once in the evening. Not everyone went to church during those decades, but most of those who didn’t chose to stay home and inside. If anyone saw them outside mowing the lawn, working in the flowers, watering the grass, or washing their vehicles, they labeled them heretics—or at least gave them a sideways look. At least, that’s the way life operated in the Deep South, or the Bible Belt as it is affectionately known. 

And it wasn’t much else to draw our attention away from attending church, at least in South Carolina. We had Blue Laws, which meant all businesses except the essential ones closed. Gas stations (where someone actually came out and pumped your gas, checked the air in your tires, checked your oil, and cleaned your windshield) opened for travelers, and drug stores opened for those who had medical needs. Other than that, Sunday was a day of rest. 

I recall the first time I saw people outside of those essential businesses working on Sunday. I was in my late twenties and had moved to Florida to attend college. As I drove through the small town, I noticed a roofing crew putting a new roof on an apartment building. They looked so strange, perched on a roof on a Sunday. 

Now, Sunday is just another day. Most businesses are open, and many people do the same things they do the other six days of the week. We don’t do much resting anymore. 

But if God is God and possesses all the traits the Bible assigns Him, why did He need to rest after six days of creating? “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2 NLT). Surely, God wasn’t tired. After all, He’s God. Perhaps, He was providing an example. 

In Lettie Cowman's book, Springs in the Valley, she tells of a traveler trekking through the deep jungles of Africa. He had engaged Coolies from one of the tribes to help carry his load. On the first day of the journey, they marched fast and traveled far, but on the second morning, the tribesmen refused to move. They simply sat and rested. When the traveler asked why they refused to move, they told him they were waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.  

Cowman concludes the story by writing, “This whirling rushing life which so many of us live does for us what that first march did for those poor jungle tribesmen. The difference: they knew what they needed to restore life's balance; too often we do not.”

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, studies show most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night to function at their highest capacity. Children and teens need even more sleep. Experts recommend between nine and eleven hours for this group. And while sleep seems harder to come by for some as they age, their need for rest doesn’t diminish. Seniors still need at least seven hours of sleep. When things or health conditions disrupt our sleep patterns, power naps during the day can help fill the gap. 

God’s Sabbath reminds us we need down time—time to stop creating. We live in a world where technology gives us endless possibilities to create. And we enjoy the fruits of others’ creations. They make life easier…more enjoyable. But the time comes when we need to step back and sit down—or perhaps lie down. If we don’t, we will hurry on our way to burnout. With burnout, comes breakdown, and when we break down we’re no good to God’s Kingdom work or to anyone else. Breakdown leads to less work and less creativity every time. 

God didn’t design our bodies to travel at warp speed seven days a week—regardless of what employers might think. Our bodies require rest, and not just at night. Down time includes periods when we step away from the busyness of life, during the day and for short or extended periods of time. After all, when we’re tired, we’re less creative. 

For me, Sabbath means sitting on the patio in our antique glider for short stints each evening and watching the birds come to our feeders. I may read, but I normally just sit, look, and reflect. Sabbath also means taking one day each week to worship my Creator with others of like-minded faith. 

God didn’t rest because He was tired. He rested to give us an example of how He created our bodies and souls to work. Find ways to build Sabbath into your life. You’ll be glad you did.


Martin Wiles is the founder of Love Lines from God ( and serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions, Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, and Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. He has authored six books and has been published in numerous publications. His most recent book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Busy World, released in December 2019. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, author, and pastor.


  1. Amen. Thank you for this reminder that we all need Sabbath.

  2. Well written. Martin. I have another take on why God rested. Creativity naturally flows from love. Love pulses nurturance, new life/creations, and protection. When creatives are finished creating something, we take a moment to enjoy its completion. It brings us joy. On the Sabbath, besides giving us an example of balance through rest, it seems to me very likely God sat back and simply enjoyed all He had made. He breathed a Sunday sigh and in joy, rested in all He'd created the way we enjoy birds in flight, flowers waving from gardens, and walks along forest paths

  3. One of the delights of this pandemic isolation era is that we rise on Sunday when our bodies wake us up, have a nice breakfast, and enjoy virtual worship with at least 3 churches. We pray with them, sing the songs, and follow our pastor's series of sermons. Not distracted by time, travel and dress requirements, we worship all morning. Yes, I miss being in church physically, but this is a spiritual gift in the meantime.

  4. I was raised in the same era, when most businesses closed on Sunday. We are missing something of the peaceful life we once knew as children. Oh, to go back to those days as a whole culture!

  5. I, too, was raised during the time of Sunday Blue Laws. Even though my family rarely went to church, we knew when Sundays came. You didn't do anything that could be thought of "work" then, or else you had the feeling everybody was looking at you! I think the culture was richer for it, though. It was a time to slow down. Now, Sundays are like any other day. I think we are paying a heavy price for thinking we can get away with working seven days a week; life is too fast, now.

  6. I remember those blue laws, too, and that Sunday was a day of rest for many. Thanks for the reminder of different times. We still try to do that, but it's harder now than it used to be.