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4 Steps to a Meaningful and Restful Sabbath

4. Contemplate. Pondering the love of God is the central focus of our Sabbaths. What makes a Sabbath a biblical Sabbath is that it is “holy to the Lord.” We are not taking time off from God; we are drawing closer to him. Sabbath is an invitation to see the invisible in the visible—to recognize the hidden ways God’s goodness is at work in our lives. It does not mean we necessarily spend the entire day in prayer or studying Scripture, though those activities may be part of a Sabbath day. Instead, contemplation means we are acutely focused on those aspects of God’s love that come to us through so many gifts from his hand. Scripture affirms that all creation declares his glory (see Psalm 19:1). On Sabbath, we intentionally look for his grandeur in everything from people, food and art to babies, sports, hobbies and music. In this sense, contemplation is an extension of delight—we are intentional about looking for the evidence of God’s love in all of the things he has given us to enjoy.

I hope these four characteristics will provide a helpful framework as you begin to consider what it might mean for you to practice a meaningful observance of Sabbath, but if you ever find yourself getting too caught up in the details and logistics—which is easy to do—I encourage you to take a step back. Refocus your attention on the larger significance of Sabbath—the opportunity to experience a foretaste of eternity. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote:

Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath while still in this world, unless one is initiated in the appreciation of eternal life, one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come… The essence of the world to come is Sabbath eternal, and the seventh day in time is an example of eternity.  

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PETE SCAZZERO is author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nelson, 2006), a groundbreaking work on the integration of emotional health and contemplative spirituality. He has also authored The Emotionally Healthy Church (Zondervan, 2003), winner of the Gold Medallion Award for 2003, Begin the Journey with the Daily Office (2008) and several best-selling Bible study guides. Pete is the founder and senior pastor of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York City, a multiracial, international church representing over 65 countries.