The Sabbath should encourage us to complete our weekly responsibilities; it should allow us to rest from our labor; and it should prompt us to joyfully reflect upon God’s goodness in our lives. It is during a celebratory and joyful period in creation, when God completed His work, that we are introduced to the Sabbath in the Bible. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. . . . By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 1:31, 2:2, NIV).
When I read this verse, I take away from it the understanding that Sabbath ought to be a joyful experience. This verse tells me that the Sabbath is good for us, and that any Sabbath-keeper who does not find joy in the Sabbath ought to develop new strategies that will allow for the enjoyment of the Sabbath. If you find that your observation of the Sabbath lacks joy, I hope that the following four strategies will help you combat some of the common reasons why you may not be finding joy in the Sabbath.
1. Address your to-do list early. You may not be enjoying the Sabbath because you enter the weekend with an overwhelmingly long to-do list. I will be the first to say that I oftentimes reserve my heaviest work to be completed on the weekend. Because I keep the Sabbath, however, I find myself rushing through work from Saturday night through the late hours of Sunday.
Recently, however, I have noticed that just because I don’t do schoolwork during the Sabbath does not necessarily imply that I am in fact resting from it. If I’m constantly spending my Sabbath thinking about everything I have to accomplish after sunset, then I am not engaging in the appropriate mental activity for the Sabbath.
Fortunately, the Bible is practical and offers us ideas on how we can address this obstacle to finding joy in the Sabbath. In Genesis 2:1, we read that God finished His work before resting on the Sabbath. Therefore, our goal should be to get as much work done during the week as possible so that we can allow our minds to rest on the Sabbath. Finishing all work before Sabbath hours may not be always practical; however, remember that every item that’s checked off of your to-do list before the Sabbath may buy you the peace of mind needed to finally establish joy in keeping the Sabbath.
2. Rest. You may often feel that you are too tired to enjoy the Sabbath. This is not uncommon. The most obvious function of the Sabbath throughout the Bible is, simply, to rest. Oftentimes, however, we emphasize the physical aspect of rest and overlook the importance of obtaining rest for our minds.
Rest your mind on every Sabbath by associating God with the breathtakingly beautiful things He has created for mankind. Ellen G. White encourages us to rest our minds by limiting the time spent indoors on Sabbath. She urges us to reflect on God’s goodness by spending time outside in nature. Taking part in the gift of nature will allow us to learn about God’s character; learning about God’s character will draw us closer to Him and will make us love Him more (Testimony Treasures, vol. 1, p. 280). If we fall more and more in love with God during our rest on Sabbath, we will have no problem finding joy in it.
3. Cultivate an interest in studying Scripture. You may feel like you don’t enjoy the Sabbath because you lack a general interest in Bible discussions. A personal relationship with God is necessary for enjoying the Sabbath. This relationship can be established through personal prayer and Bible study. If you lack an interest in the general teachings that occur on the Sabbath, pray that God will give you an interest in studying your Bible. Studying Scripture will spark your interest in topics that are discussed on Sabbath.
In regards to developing an interest for reading the Bible, Ellen G. White writes,
“Let all who have cultivated a love for light reading, now turn their attention to the sure word of prophecy. Take your Bibles, and begin to study with fresh interest the sacred records of the Old and New Testaments. The oftener and more diligently you study the Bible, the more beautiful will it appear, and the less relish you will have for light reading” (Messages to Young People, p. 274).
Developing an interest in Scripture-related teachings might be just what you need to find joy in the Sabbath!
4. Do what the disciples did. You may be lacking joy in the Sabbath because you have not yet established joyful relationships with other Sabbath-keepers. We can learn from the disciples how to overcome this obstacle. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples did more than observe the Sabbath together. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46, NIV).
This verse encourages us form close relationships with other believers, to hang out with them, to dine with them. Establishing healthy, joyful relationships with other believers might be the missing puzzle piece needed for you to obtain joy in your Sabbath-keeping experience.
Observing the Sabbath should be a joyful experience and not a burden. It is not uncommon for young college students to view the Sabbath as a burden to their academic and/or social lives. The Sabbath, although intended for rest, could sometimes seem like a day of overwhelming restrictions from things we enjoy the most. The Bible, however, tells us that the Sabbath was made for our good—for our own happiness (Mark 2:27).
Thus, if our Sabbath experience lacks joy and rest, then we are not experiencing its true meaning. In order to enjoy the Sabbath, we must, like God, finish our work during the week; we must rest our minds; we must enjoy hearing God’s Word, and we must enjoy each other’s company. I pray that you may begin to enjoy the true meaning of God’s holy Sabbath!