Fearing that someone might inadvertently violate the Sabbath, Jewish religious leaders developed a long document—twenty-four chapters in all—to explain how to observe this “day of rest.” They went into meticulous detail to explain what type of work could be done and where, while adding a few appropriate loopholes as they saw fit.
In their efforts to obey the Sabbath, those religious leaders created oppressive requirements for observing the day. It was the exact opposite of God’s intention. Remember that, in one of His seemingly many arguments with the Pharisees about observing that special day, Jesus told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27b, HCSB).
Once again, we must remind ourselves that the Lord’s good purpose for the Sabbath involves wholeness and restoration.
Spiritual and Emotional Burdens
Life can be painfully burdensome. We all know that. And though the original intent of the Sabbath day involved laying down physical burdens—like those emphasized by the Pharisees—emotional and spiritual dynamics are also involved.
Some people carry the weight of sin and guilt and shame. Others struggle under the burden of expectations. Another crushing load can be our heavy concern for people that we care about. It can be a spouse, a child, a much larger sphere of people, or even ourselves.
Afraid that circumstances will not work out as we hope, we try to hold situations and people tight. The strange thought is that we can mysteriously make things better by carrying that weight upon our own shoulders. But a very real problem is that we begin to step into a role that belongs only to God. Remember, in prophetically speaking of the Prince of Peace, Isaiah tells us that “the government will rest on His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:6).
Only the Lord has the necessary wisdom, strength, and ability to bring favorable results from every bad situation (Romans 8:28).
I am not trying to heap condemnation on anyone. But if we stop to think for a minute, it is quite prideful for us to take upon ourselves what only the Almighty God can do. And what arrogance for us to think that we somehow care more about people than God does, and that we can work out their circumstances with greater wisdom! Our pride-rooted efforts to control only serve to make matters worse.
In his first letter, the apostle Peter gave a simple exhortation to humble ourselves and cast our cares on the Lord:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)
Peter also reminded us that the devil will exploit whatever openings he can find (1 Peter 5:8-9). It does not matter if our tendency to carry the crushing burdens of life is rooted in good intentions. Pride will have its negative consequences regardless.
Should we then adopt a laissez-faire attitude of stepping back to allow circumstances to run their own course? Absolutely not! We simply need both the humility and wisdom to bring favorable changes without controlling. That is why we seek to welcome the kingdom of God into each and every circumstance. Prayer provides us with the secret of caring deeply without being driven into the ground by the weight of our concerns.
In drifting away from practicing a weekly Sabbath, we have lost an emphasis on prayer, and so we tend to carry our burdens for extended periods of time. One or two might be manageable, but those weights can accumulate quickly. It is like taking a long hike and adding 2-3 rocks to your backpack each day.
We also tend to carry the burdens of tomorrow. And neither were we designed for those. It is this regard that the Lord calls us to become like little children. Sure we want to make plans for the future, but we never truly know what the next day will bring. Instead, our heavenly Father calls us to surrender control and look to Him as the perfect parent who promises to meet every need.
Giving God Our Burdens
One of the more powerful nuances of life involves knowing our part and knowing God’s part. God will not take it upon Himself to do our part, but neither does He appreciate it when we try to do His part. Surely, we will lose our peace if we try. The prayer of faith helps us to put these things in order. We bring our concerns to the Lord, and through faith-filled prayers, we lay them at His feet. In His wisdom and His power, the Lord then brings appropriate answers in His time.
Do you want to live in a perpetual Sabbath, experiencing a sense of deep and abiding peace? Then make prayer central to your life. Learn to bring your concerns to God daily through prayer, and also begin to take extended times to pray for the greater needs of our world at large.
Trusting the Lord and letting go of control will not only bring freedom, peace, and rest, it will also invite the King of Glory to work amazing wonders in on our planet!
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.