Is this time of staying at home because of a global pandemic a time to rest? Is it a Sabbath?
No more than any other time.
Most of us haven’t really traded a time of activity for inactivity. We’ve traded it for different activities. Some are able to work from home instead of from their offices. For some, it may have been an easy transition, for others, it created a lot of new challenges figuring out how to make it work. For some, instead of a job in the workplace, they are home with their spouses and children. All the time. Figuring out how to deal with that can be a job in itself. Relationships take work. Then there are the extra dishes, and laundry, and cleaning, and homeschooling, and disciplining…. For many, there are family members we are used to seeing and caring for that we can’t see or care for as easily now. There are some who are used to caring for themselves that are at risk, and need to stay home and be cared for – more pressure on both them and the newly engaged care-giving family members.
We know the story. God created the world in six days, and on the 7th He rested. He set that as a pattern for His people, Israel. He instituted a “sabbath” even for the land. They were to work the land for six years, then let it go fallow and “rest” the 7th year. He meant it. When Israel went into captivity in Babylon, they were told in 2nd Chronicles that it would be for 70 years, because the land needed the Sabbath rest they had never given it. In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders strictly enforced the idea of resting and not working on the Sabbath, in part because they thought they could protect the nation from experiencing that kind of exile again. They took it very seriously when Jesus came along and healed on the Sabbath or allowed His disciples to “harvest” a few handfuls of grain.
Jesus did not do this to prove that sometimes you have to work on the Sabbath. He did it to show them they did not understand the purpose of the Sabbath, and to show them there was a righteousness that exceeded their idea of righteousness – a frail human concept of righteousness which they were trying to force on the people, and which did not set them in proper relationship with God anyway.
The Pharisees version of “Sabbath rest” a legalistic “do nothing” on one day a week. The New Testament version of Sabbath is different. It is not the absolute ceasing of all things. It is ceasing from “your own” labor and entering “His rest.”
His yoke is easy and His burden is light doesn’t mean there isn’t a yoke or a burden. However, I challenge you to find any call to labor or work or effort in the New Testament (hint: there are several, and most are in the writings of Paul) that is not qualified with the admonition to find God’s own strength to accomplish it. We are not called to a one day a week ceasing from everything – not on Saturday (the Sabbath, or seventh, day) or on Sunday. We are not going through this global crisis so we can all stay at home and do nothing and thereby learn to “rest.” Facing the COVID-19 virus is a stress inducer whether you are dealing with it directly or just having to deal with a new version of your lifestyle. But, it’s a thing. And this thing is another thing that makes up that collection of things known as “all things.” God is willing to help us learn through however it is affecting each of our individual lives. One thing that we can learn is to spiritually rest in Him – all day, everyday, 24/7, non-stop, whether we are working hard or doing nothing, no matter how our lives have changed. If we are doing what we are doing (or not doing) in our own strength, without consulting Him, without trusting Him, we are not resting. When we rest in Him, we still live life. We still work. We still do. We just don’t struggle with it anymore. We do it in peace, in confidence, and in His strength, not our own. Ceasing from our own labors does not necessarily equate with ceasing from labor, and definitely not with the absolute ceasing of all things.
Do you find yourself doing more or less while waiting for the COVID-19 virus to go away? Or are you just dealing with doing “different?” Is your life simpler, or more complicated? How do you find yourself thinking and feeling about God and spiritual things during this time?