Sabbath Rest – Emotional Wellness
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.”
1 Kings 19:4-5
The October Issue of Lutheran Witness, one of my denomination’s official publications, is entitled, “Ministry and Mental Health”. It deals with the topics of depression and burn-out among church workers.
The issue reminds the reader that these issues are not new. It points out that the founding president of my denomination, C. F. W. Walther, in the 19th century suffered a nervous breakdown and took time off to recuperate. In addition, the reformer Martin Luther suffered from anxiety attacks throughout his ministry. In German, he called these attacks anfechtung.
Many pastors are aware of an account in the Hebrews Scriptures that involves the prophet Elijah. Elijah suffered burnout in his ministry. Briefly, the remedy was simple: 1) Rest, 2) Food, 3) Spiritual encouragement.
The Lutheran Witness, in an article written by Jason Wagner, talks of a “Sabbath for Pastors”. Sabbath simply means “rest”. Wagner points out that a “Sabbath rest defines who we are, not because of what we do or don’t do on a given day of the week, but because Christ has done everything the Law requires on our behalf.”
Pastors too often define themselves by what they do or don’t do. Too often, especially when a pastor does not accomplish the criteria he or others has set for himself, he can become burned out.
This is not true only for the pastor but is true for each of us. Too often we define ourselves by our work, by our parenting skills and so on. Often, this leads to burn out, sometimes a breakdown.
Each one of us needs a sabbath, a rest. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Sabbath was practiced once a week.
Might I suggest a practice of Sabbath?
1. Take a day off from my daily/weekly routine.
3. Remember, I am not defined by my successes versus failures.
4. I am defined as a child of God.
5. If it is a Sunday, worship. Originally, the Sabbath was Saturday. But also do some reading, something outdoors, binge-watch a favorite program, etc.
6. Let things go for one day.
Hopefully, you will be refreshed to move on again, remember you and I are not defined by our jobs, but you and I are children of God.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California