Make Sabbath a Delight

How can Sabbath be your best breathing space?

Family Matters

Karen Holford is director of Family, Women’s and Children’s ministries for the Trans-European Division.

IT WAS SABBATH MORNING in the Holford home. We had two young children and a 6-month-old baby. During breakfast Amanda called to say her family had food poisoning, so they couldn’t host the family of the visiting speaker. I searched through the freezer desperately trying to expand our simple dinner to feed six more people.

Then Mrs. Smith called to ask if we could bring some flowers from our garden to arrange in the church. Our 6-year-old daughter, Bethany, gathered a fistful of bright dandelions—clearly our garden had more weeds than real flowers! In the meantime the baby got sick all over my husband, Bernie, and he was busy looking for a fresh shirt. Our son took off his best shoes and hid them because he thought it would be great fun to watch us find them again.

It was chaos! By this time we were all running around and shouting at one another.

We finally piled into the car. The baby was wearing only a diaper and a blanket. Bernie and I weren’t speaking to each other, and the two older children were squabbling in the back seat.

Suddenly Bethany said, “You know that song we sang last night? ‘Sabbath Is a Happy Day’? . . . Well, it isn’t really, is it?”

In Isaiah 58:13 God tells us to call the Sabbath a delight. We often lose sight of the importance of delightful Sabbaths because we are too focused on the unhelpful translation of not doing “your own pleasure.” “Pleasure” might be better translated as “your own business”—doing what you want to do for your own gain, such as work, shopping, or empty entertainment.

Sabbath is an incredible gift from God. It is like an every-week birthday present for the world, designed to help us pause, rest, wonder, worship, love, and rebalance. God doesn’t want Sabbath to be a day of “don’ts” because experiencing “no” makes us feel anxious, afraid, and sad, and it’s incompatible with the “yes!” of delight He longs for us to experience.

We’re all created differently, and each of us finds very different things delightful, which is why God has created so much diversity for us to explore. What fills you with delight? How can that delightful experience enrich your Sabbath? What is delightful for your family members and your church? When we are experiencing the pure delight of Sabbath, it’s an incredible witness to the overworked, overstressed, and over-busy people in our communities.

I’ve used the acronym SABBATH to explore some of the key components of a delightful Sabbath.

God intended Sabbath to be a day of simplicity and peace for us, not the busiest day of the week! How can you simplify your Sabbaths? How can you make sure the workload for Sabbath is shared evenly so no one in your home or church feels overwhelmed by their responsibilities?

Do you look forward to the Sabbath with eager anticipation? Or is it one of the most challenging days of your week as you juggle multiple responsibilities, unrealistic expectations, driving from church to church, and caring for your children? What would make Sabbath the day your family looks forward to the most? How
can everyone in the family have an active part
in preparing for Sabbath each week? When our children were young, they took turns choosing and making a special dessert or treat for Sabbath. It gave me precious one-on-one time with each of them too.

What are the blessings and benefits of Sabbath that you most want to thank God for? How could you express your gratitude in a creative way? If you’re not feeling blessed by your Sabbaths, what might help you and your family be enriched by the way you spend Sabbath together? In our family we try to go for a walk for at least an hour. It doesn’t take much preparation, and it gives us time to relax, exercise, talk together, and look in wonder at God’s creation.

God intended Sabbath to be a day to pause from work and rebalance our lives. Today we need a breathing space where we can breathe deeply and give a huge sigh of relief that we have come safely through another week. How can Sabbath be your best breathing space?

The God of all creation made a day for us to enjoy our wonderful world. Experiencing awe at His handiwork is good for our well-being because wonder fills us with a sense of joy, peace, and beauty. What can you do to bring awe into your home or to seek it in the natural world around you? Choose a few flowers for a vase and explore all the tiny, incredible details of God’s creation. Look for something on your walks that you’ve never examined properly before.

Creating your own family Sabbath traditions gives you a sense of togetherness and specialness. Sharing what you are thankful for, reflecting on the past week together, eating special foods, having candlelight, and enjoying delightful ways to open and close Sabbath will linger in the memories
of your children. They may even continue these traditions when they leave home. What are your favorite Sabbath traditions? Why not create some new ones?

Does your Sabbath leave you feeling happier and healthier, or frustrated and exhausted? How does your Sabbath experience enhance your well-being and help you to flourish? Are there responsibilities and expectations you need to let go of? And what would add extra delight to your Sabbath?

Why not take time out to audit your Sabbath experience and to focus on making it a day of pure delight for you, your family, and the members of your church?

Karen Holford is director of Family, Women’s and Children’s ministries for the Trans-European Division.