Blog Spiritual Disciplines

Detoxing Anxiety and Busyness with the Sabbath

Anxiety is such a nuisance. It is a thief that quietly finds its way in, going unnoticed, lurking around finding an assortment of things to disturb. Unlike a thief that quickly flees, anxiety steals peace and then easily makes itself at home. Soon the unwelcome guest takes up permanent residence. My chest is feeling a little tight just thinking about it! I have been robbed several times (complete stories another time). The first time, I can remember coming home to my dresser drawers a complete mess, the remnants of a thief hurriedly pilfering through my stuff — not a good thought. To my great dismay, my jewelry box was gone containing, not expensive jewelry, but some sentimental pieces. Even though I was thankful nothing else was stolen, there was one thing I soon discovered was tampered with. I began to notice my senses seemed to be on high alert. I was aware of every dog barking, each squeak or creak in our old home. It felt eery being home alone. The quiet was not quiet, but a loud reminder that the thief had robbed me of my peace for a time.

The Busyness Norm

Anxiety comes in many forms, but often it creeps in with its buddy “busyness.” The accumulation of  busyness over time begins to take a toll. Adapting, we find ourselves trapped–“busy” becomes the new norm, the new expected schedule, and the way we live life. 

As a parent, I have witnessed this in the overwhelming push by students and parents to obtain the right resume for college admission. One mom casually shared with me about her daughter’s resume. She served as president of the school, played volleyball, made homecoming court, performed in the musical, won many 4H awards (among just a few things) — all while getting straight A’s in honor and AP classes. “Oh, it is so important for getting into college.” It made me, not only tired just listening to all her daughter’s accomplishments, but soon I became very anxious. I was now almost certain that Connor was behind and not doing enough to get into college. I thought anxiously, “I need to start increasing his activity level. What else can he do?” Soon a tightness overtook my chest that wasn’t there before. I had a new standard to keep up with.

I find it is too easy to allow the culture and other’s “busy norms” to set my gauge for busyness. I see it in many different areas. With kids there is the need to do competitive sports at a young age, which would take us out of town on the weekends. “If I don’t they will never play _______ in high school.” There is the need to frantically shop on Black Friday. “If I don’t, I won’t save the most money and get the deals on all my Christmas gifts.” Students often have extremely packed schedules with many activities. Involvement is the key to success. “If I don’t, I may not get a job.” There is a need to work longer hours or make more money. “If I don’t we might not be able to buy this or that.” The schools always have a need for donations for fundraisers and volunteers. “I should give and volunteer for everything. If I don’t, what will others think?” Then there is the need to keep my cell-phone or device always at my side. “If I don’t people won’t be able to get ahold of me that instant.” When I take my cues from others first, over time I become busy– overly busy. Busy. Busy, Busy– Life is about being spent and not lived.

Listen to Jesus’ Voice First

Anxiety steals our peace. The busyness norm contributes to our anxiety. I haven’t said anything that you or I didn’t already know. “But what can I even do about it. Better time management? Just say, “No.” Set up tighter boundaries?” As I complete this “detox,” one thought keeps coming back to me, and it is this: “I want to listen to Jesus’ voice first.” I want to ask Him first. I want His ways to give me perspective. I want what He values to be my values. I want to listen to Him first, not the culture or others first. When I start with God, things more easily fall in place and make a little more sense.

How would this make a difference in your life, if you listened to Jesus’s voice first in regard to your schedule?

Maybe busyness does not need to be the norm. Like so many other things, I think God has provided a gift and a way out of our crazy, busy life. And that gift to us is the Sabbath.

A Sabbath Gift

When you hear the word “Sabbath,” what do you think? I think of the Little House on the Prairie books, which I love. In these books, on the Sabbath Laura would have to sit still on her chair and quietly play– not doing much. This of course doesn’t sound appealing to me. As I study what the Bible says about the Sabbath, what I discover is a gift from God for His people. Jesus even said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) In other words, God gave us this day for us.

I think we all see that time is a commodity. We would love to have more time do get things done, more time to have off, more time to sleep, rest, play or just relax. But in our busyness we do not have much control over our time. Yet, God gives a day for us. He tells the Israelites to work 6 days, but one day they have to rest. Think about this, “What would it be like for you, if you had one day each week to rest– to not do work, go to work or be busy about getting things done?” It is a day you were given a day to be with family or friends, to exercise, read, or even take a nap. I think that sounds kind of nice.

Another thing I find interesting about the Sabbath, is it made the people stand out as different. Taking a day each week to rest was not the norm among the peoples. Their God gave them a day of rest, and this set them apart from others.  They were a different people, with a great and personal God, Creator God.

The Sabbath set them apart.
Like fasting, for a good part of my life,  a 24 hour “Sabbath”  seemed a little impossible to me. There was too much to do. I liked the idea of time off, but it didn’t really seem very realistic. I also didn’t know how much that I really needed it. I am not sure when something changed, but something did. I soon started to see that the Sabbath was a gift and something I desperately needed. Yet, for so long I had ignored it.

Sabbath and Anxiety

Back to anxiety. If anxiety is the thief that steals my peace, then maybe the Sabbath is a restorer to my soul. It is a day to be with and connect with people. It is a day to worship and pray. It is day to enjoy God’s creation. It is a day to just relax and rest. It is a day to enjoy God’s gifts– the unique ones that we each have been given. It is a day to bless others. All the things that anxiety steals from us, the Sabbath restores to us. The Sabbath is a gift, we just need to take it.

How do I take a Sabbath?

Everyone could be a little different in  how they could make this work- but I do take mine on Sunday. Really, I see it as a 24 hour period starting around dinner time on Saturday to dinner time on Sunday. In order to take this day, I have to prepare for it; that means getting the things accomplished beforehand that need to be done over the weekend- like laundry, yard work, errands, or housework. These may need to be part of my schedule during the week and on Saturday. In a way my week begins to orientate towards the Sabbath. As I regularly take a Sabbath, it is a part of the rhythm of my week. The week in a sense, begins and ends with this day. It then sets a tone for the rest of the week. But if I rest, I will be better for the rest of the week and over the long run. I also think it begins to shape my schedule. I have to let go of some things, and be ok with unfinished tasks.

No “To-Do List” Day

So, I try and get my work done, and then I begin the Sabbath. Saturday night might be an “easier to make meal” with the family, a time to just hang out, have friends over or play a game. Sunday we get up and go to church and eat out– as inexpensive as we can. With four boys this is a challenge. After lunch I come home and make coffee and just “be.” I am available for whatever. I might take a nap, read on the patio or pick a few weeds in my flower beds (this is relaxing to me). Sometimes I take a bike ride with my son or play a game. In the past my son and I would walk down to the assisted living home nearby and visit with the residents. Other times I play the piano or talk with my parents. I may spend some time reading the bible and praying. Really it is a day to NOT do my “to do list.” No agenda is driving the day– no demands from others or others schedules.

The Benefits

The benefits are obvious and there are so many benefits– time to worship, time to to be with family, time for rest and for doing things for refreshment and restoration. It is a day to give our soul what it so desperately needs, and that is rest. Slowly, as I started taking the Sabbath, I found it working to drain the anxiety associated with the busyness that has slowly flooded my life. God knows I need rest. God knows I need the Sabbath.

Another benefit is that it helps keep things in perspective. It reminds me of the big and signficant things in life and what really matters. In order to take a Sabbath you have to let go of things. Something has to give. The day will come every week, whether we take it or not, but how will we make it happen? It calls me to evaluate my schedule and the way I spend my time. It causes me to weigh options and even allow some things to go from my calendar–with the hope of creating more space in my life.

Some things are big and important and other things are small. Each begins to find its place.

This day also helps me to slow down and to discover what refreshes me. I like to read, be with my family or be outside. I like to observe beauty and the details of God’s creations. It helps me to be present and enjoy where I am. It keeps me more in the present.
A substantial benefit of the Sabbath is it builds our trust. In order to take a Sabbath we have to trust God that He will make up for the gaps, the unfinished tasks, or the time we think we need.

We have to let go of our agenda and trust Him.We have to trust our heavenly Father that He knows what I need.
The Sabbath is really a bridge to detoxing anxiety. The Sabbath is a way of giving the rest to our souls that we and our families so desperately need. The Sabbath frees us. It does not trap us, steal from us or burden us. It becomes a welome guest in our life that restores us and gives us peace. If anxiety is a thief that takes, then the Sabbath is a gift that restores.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
*Start small. Start with a few hours on the weekend and work up each week until you reach a 24 hour period.
*What is the most difficult area to trust God with in order to take a Sabbath?
*What would you like to do with a Sabbath?