“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride on high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 58: 13, 14

You heard it here first: the Sabbath is not always a delight.

We sometimes get into a rut of thinking there are huge, mounting expectations for the Sabbath that don’t exist anywhere but in our own mind (and sometimes in the sanctuary). The truth is that just like Christ never promised bright skies and smooth sailing for Christians (in fact, scripture says otherwise), He also never promised that Sabbath would be a delight.

The scripture above actually says to call the Sabbath a delight, not that it will always be a delight.

I’ll tell you about a woman I know.

She’s never had the house clean when the sun has set on Friday. She’s always felt in the back of her mind and the pit of her stomach that this is a failure.

She may show up late for Sabbath School.

She may sit in her car and cry during praise service.

She packs colored pencils, Legos, and even tablets and smartphones to entertain her children during church.

She plays on her phone to pass the time.

She may hit the drive-thru on the way home.

She may yell at her kids, fold laundry after church, decline an invite for dinner.

She may want to skip church altogether.

She probably naps instead of visiting the needy, shut-in, or missing members.

She is sometimes me, and she is sometimes you.

I recently attended a workshop all about Sabbath. It wasn’t your usual Sabbath talk about the Dos and Don’ts of Sabbath-keeping. If you get wrapped up in the rules set by others for your own communion with the Lord, you will never measure up. In this workshop, I learned that the best you can do is find what is best for your own family. Make the Sabbath special each week and that may mean shutting off the TV, it may mean keeping your smartphone at the charging station during family time. It may mean lighting a Sabbath candle, singing silly songs, and eating root beer floats for dinner. Life is messy and sometimes the Sabbath can be messy. When you have a Sabbath School lesson to teach, special music to sing, and a brood of children to dress, feed, and get to church on time, it can be anything but the delight you wish it to be.

The special things you do as a family to make the Sabbath a delight in your home may be the only good thing about your weekly rest this week. It may be the memories your children cherish and the family traditions they carry into their own families and homes as adults.

When the Sabbath isn’t a delight, I suggest these simple steps:

  1. Acknowledge that you are not alone in this. Many, many Christians are dealing with horrific circumstances that make the Sabbath difficult at times. Mary herself had to watch her son, Jesus, die moments before Sabbath began, and then endure unimaginable grief during that first Sabbath without Him. While she was grieving, God the Father was as well, and while we grieve, so does our Father in Heaven.
  2. Find communion with your King. Stop and pray to God about your rough day. He knows already. Talking to Him in prayer will bring you peace on a rough Sabbath despite what may be going on in your life.
  3. Look for someone to serve. Jesus had a servant’s heart and did His Father’s work on the Sabbath. You can too! You don’t have to have a big plan and reach a large number of people. You can serve one person and it will be enough. This may mean that you need to serve your children who may be the source of your rough day. It may be your husband or wife that you need to serve. It may be the homeless person at the parking lot of the McDonald’s where you’ve bought the family Happy Meals despite the guilt that may come later. Meeting the need for someone in Christ’s name will bring you closer to Him and improve your Sabbath experience.
  4. Take away the worldly expectations. I heard recently that hopeless guilt doesn’t come from God, but the devil. God-given guilt is wrapped in hope for tomorrow. If there are expectations placed on your Sabbath that are impossible for your family to meet, let them go and let God take that burden from you. He will! If you cannot make it to Sabbath School on time and would rather skip it altogether, let this expectation go! The teacher may give you a glare, but Jesus wants you there! If you can’t bring a dish to the potluck, find your kids’ matching socks, tie a perfect tie, pay all of the recommended tithes and offerings, or make it home without purchasing gas, it’s okay. Don’t let these things ruin your special time with your Creator. He created the Sabbath for you!

In Mark 2:27 we read “And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” I imagine it like this: it’s the best party ever planned and we get an invitation every single week. It’s a gift from the King and everyone is invited. If we get a glimpse of Him at this big affair, we can call ourselves blessed. If we trip on our own elaborate outfit and fall at His feet in the process, can we call it a mess or call ourselves blessed?