The Long Sabbath
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)
We are in the midst of a strange time. Normal life has been disrupted and our usual patterns of life are no longer the same. It feels as if there is no corner of our existence that has not been affected by the coronavirus pandemic; no part of our daily lives which has not been impacted in some way.
There are lots of implications of this change of existence which are difficult and scary, from health issues to job worries and economic concerns. Yet as we live in very different and changed circumstances, it occurs to me that many of the effects are similar to something God desires for us: a sabbath.
Now sabbath is not the same as a lockdown or quarantine. Sabbath as God has designed it does not need to include social distancing, loneliness or isolation. Sabbath can be spent with others as well as by ourselves.
But sabbath is meant to be a change to the normal way of life. One day in seven should look and feel different. There has been much written over the years about what ‘do no work’ should mean for a sabbath, but at its heart it means that a sabbath day ought to be different to a work day.
We live in days that are different. Some of those differences are forced upon us and not what we would choose. Yet these days are different. They have thrown our normal course of life into the air and changed things around.
In the midst of the worries and concerns, some of which are very real, could it be that God is calling us to a renewed sabbath? Could he take the changes that have been imposed upon us and use them for our good? Could God be doing a new and exciting work in the midst of a global emergency? Could he be showing us something of what a sabbath can look like?
I’m conscious that many people are working, not resting, in the midst of this pandemic. Many are working harder and longer than before. The current climate may not feel like a time of rest and re-creation as the sabbath can, and should, be. We need to be mindful of that, and the strain that the situation puts on our physical and mental health. We will not all come out of this having learnt a new language or developed a new hobby. Many of us will just be thankful to have reached the other side of this crisis.
Even so, the disruption to our daily lives offers an opportunity: to forge new habits perhaps, or to try new things. But more than this, to use the upheaval of these days to seek the Lord and hear his voice. To be aware and awake to what God might be doing among these times. To meet with the living God in the reality of isolation and encounter him afresh. To embrace an enforced sabbath and find ourselves changed for the better at the end of it.