Busyness, Sabbath, and the practice of God’s sovereignty

September 15, 2007 at 8:48 pm 2 comments

busy.jpgThe Chinese pictograph for busyness is composed of two separate characters: heart and killing.1

I suspect it was in recognition of the truth contained there that the fourth commandment enjoined the Israelites simply to stop.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall do no work. (Gen. 20:9-10a)

Stop doing, stop running, stopping spinning your wheels; just stop.

Busyness and its tax

Obviously, busyness costs us on an emotional level, depriving us of closeness, companionship, and the privilege of introspection. The stress associated with busyness also costs us on a physical level, literally destroying the capacity of the human heart to function properly.

But busyness also exacts a spiritual tax, and this is the one that really gets me. Says Mark Buchanan:

restofgod.gifThe worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying?2

Busyness drives us to keep doing—doing more, doing faster, doing constantly. It induces the illusion that it is we who are responsible, we who succeed, we who provide for ourselves and prepare our own salvation.

The Sabbath and sovereignty

It’s exactly that hallucination that Sabbath practice remedies. Be still, says the fourth commandment, and know that I am your creator, your redeemer, your God. Rest, so as to practice the truth that you can’t redeem yourselves; rest, so that you remember that salvation comes by grace.

Sabbath, in other words, is a tangible rehearsal of God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign, there is no need to rush. If God is sovereign, we can actually risk rest.3

It’s in this physical practice that the rubber meets the road. After all, it’s easy to say that God is sovereign, but much harder to own it in practice. When life gets away from us and our hamster wheels start spinning a little too fast, do we know that God is really big enough?

This is why the Sabbath was such a brilliant idea on God’s part. Through teaching us the exercise of ceasing, He gives us the chance to practice the truth of Himself: Yes, he really is big enough.


1 Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 45.
2 61.
3 I am aware that some people see Sabbath rest as a legalistic practice associated with salvation by works, but perhaps it is obvious why I find this worry a little ironic.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

What good does a dying God do? Why blood?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aamphd  |  October 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    as elswhere in your realm, insightful. so it begs the question. . . how’s it working for you?

  • 2. Jamie  |  October 26, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    Well, since you ask…

    I wrote this post quite a while before I actually published it. The reason I didn’t publish it was because it didn’t feel real–God’s sovereignty did not feel tangible. So I felt like I was being a bit of a hypocrite for posting.

    On the other hand, I realized that my last line accurately describes my experience: Through teaching us the exercise of ceasing, He gives us the chance to practice the truth of Himself: Yes, he really is big enough.

    I’m practicing the truth that God is big enough. I’m still inexpert at it, I guess, but I’m practicing. The longer I practice and the more fully I pour myself into the experience, the more real it becomes. God is getting bigger.


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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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