The phone rings early in the morning and a voice says, “Donna, we are short-staffed today. Can you come in?” The nursing program is doing a curriculum revision, and everyone agrees to schedule extra meeting dates to ensure its completion. A volunteer at the church calls: “Steve, Mrs. Lin had hip surgery and is coming home. Can you coordinate a team of nurses to visit her daily?”
These requests and other professional expectations are part of everyday work for nurses in all areas of practice. Whether working in acute care, the clinic, a church, or education, nurses are called to give more and more of themselves.
Along with work commitments, nurses have the responsibility of spouses, children, and/or extended family members. Many nurses juggle work and family while volunteering at churches, clinics, or other community organizations. Nurses also are busy pursuing additional degrees, research projects, and committee assignments. They can become overcommitted, overworked, and overwhelmed.
The concern isn’t that nurses say “yes” to more and more commitments. It is rather that we say “no” to the rest we need. Thankfully, the Lord in his infinite wisdom knows our needs and gave us the Sabbath rest.
The word “Sabbath” usually reminds Christians of the 10 commandments found in Exodus 20:3–17. The concept actually was first presented when the Lord provided the Israelites with “bread from heaven” in the form of manna. The Lord told Moses to instruct the Israelites to pick up enough of the manna for one day, and to tell them that it would last only for that day. If they gathered too much, it rotted by the next day. But on the sixth day, they were to gather enough for two days, so they could rest on the seventh day (Exodus 16:4–5). Thus, they were to work for six days and rest on the seventh day.
This Old Testament command of rest and provision is a New Testament blessing. What does the Lord have for us in a Sabbath rest? Let’s explore the 5 “R’s” of Sabbath: rest, reliance, renewal, relationship, and reverence.
THE 5 R’s OF SABBATH
Rest was important for the Israelites and still is important for us today. It is more than having a day off. Sabbath is a time to cease from activity. In today’s fast-paced culture driven by cell phones, emails, and entertainment, the idea of ceasing from activity seems impossible. Yet it is possible and can be a priority. We have a clear example of God resting after the creation in Genesis 2:1–3.
Jesus also rested and ensured that the disciples took time to escape the demands of ministry. In Mark 6:31(NASB), the disciples return to Jesus after they had been teaching and healing. Jesus said, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest a while.” I love the next phrase: “For there were many people coming and going, and they did not have time to eat.” Sounds like a typical day for a nurse.
A Sabbath rest can be a time of respite and relaxation when we do not allow the world to drive our activities and our thoughts.
Reliance exemplifies or brings to light the idea behind a Sabbath. In Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus taught us not to worry about clothes, food, or possessions. He reminded us that our heavenly Father already knows what we need. Our understanding of our reliance on the Lord for everything is exhibited through our ability to practice a Sabbath. Like the Israelites, we should do all that needs to be done in six days and have a time for enjoying the provisions the Lord has for us. Trust allows that God will provide what we need and frees us from feeling compelled to do everything to take care of ourselves. Amazingly, when we give God our to-do list, plans, shopping, finances, and time, he completes it and provides us our needed rest (Psalm 23:1–2).
Renewal speaks of hope and strength. Plug “renewal” into your thesaurus and find a long list of great words: regeneration, restitution, rekindling, revitalization, rejuvenation, rebirth, replenishment, restoration, and repair. All these come from the Lord and are essential for nurses. We are the heart and soul of healthcare. As such, we can become weighed down with the pain and suffering of patients, colleagues, and students. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17). This refreshing prayer reminds us of our heavenly hope and comfort and the renewal we can receive. Notice, it is through renewal that the comfort and strength shines forth through excellent words and deeds.
Relationship with the Lord, our family, and each other is a priority with God. Love is the verb the Lord uses to communicate the importance of our relationships. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are commanded to love our spouses, our children, and our neighbors.
The New Testament letters written to the early churches are full of instructions of what living love is: encouragement, forgiveness, patience, kindness, and instruction, to name a few. The Sabbath is a time to reflect on our relationships—first vertically with our Savior, then horizontally with others. Every relationship in our lives has a purpose. We have an interdependency with one another as members of a family and community: “…and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God” (Colossians 2:19, NASB). A specified time of togetherness can strengthen our ties with the important people in our lives.
Reverence is a feeling of deep respect, love, and awe. Many times Christians equate reverence in the Christian life with sanctuaries and the practice of worship and prayer. However, we can have deep respect and awe for the Lord and all his provisions during a quiet time at home, a walk on the beach, or an exploration in the woods or mountains. We can demonstrate reverence for creation, which includes nature and people, by experiencing the renewing of life through seasons, or even by admiring the playfulness and joy of God in puppies and kittens. Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. ”A time of reverence can be experienced whenever we are reminded of the Author and Creator of our lives, our work, and our universe.
The idea is to bring worship, prayer, and reverence to all aspects of God’s creation, not just those predefined times in church or on Sunday.The joy and love of God’s music and words can be experienced and discovered wherever we invite him to come. Rest, reliance, renewal, relationship, and reverence all are blessings the Lord provides as we commit to a Sabbath rest. How do we, as busy nurses, implement a time of rest? And finally, what are some of the barriers to our own Sabbath rest?
HOW DO WE DO IT?
Using an acrostic with the word SABBATH, a time of rest can be easily implemented:
- Seek the Lord
- Ask for help
- Be creative
- Be flexible
- Adjust your commitments
- Trust the Lord
- Honor the Lord
As you work your way through each letter, you will discover how easy and inviting a true Sabbath rest can be.
Seek the Lord
God rewards our desire to serve him and live for him. Go to him in prayer and tell him your schedule, your concerns and the demands on your life. He already knows, yet the act of telling reminds us that he cares for us and partners with us. The Lord tapped me on the shoulder about Sabbath through my pastor’s teaching. It took a few months of coincidental teachings before I began praying about it. I had not realized it but I had fears about my finances. I was struggling with the Lord about “providing” for me and my family. I also struggled with the idea of “being still.” I was uncertain of my worth if I was not active.
This struggle was significant. Everyone is in a different place of conforming to the image of Christ. Whereas mine was based on financial concerns and identifying with work, others may have concerns about setting boundaries, saying “no” to multiple commitments, struggling with control issues, or feeling uncomfortable experiencing intimacy with the Lord. Only the Holy Spirit can direct each individual to recognize and identify personal barriers.
Don’t just seek the Lord in the beginning, but seek him throughout the process and even amid your Sabbath time. This is a work-in-progress, and he may reveal wonderful ways to find rest long after you have made changes.
Ask for Help
Asking for help can begin with seeking prayer support. Our prayer partners, participants in a Bible study, or significant family and friends can pray for us and guide us in respecting our spiritual changes. Another aspect of seeking help is asking for physical support. This is especially important for those with a family.
Deciding to set aside a specific day for a Sabbath means other people in our lives will be affected. Whether a spouse, children, or extended family, we will need help in deciding days, times, activities, and rearrangement of responsibilities.
Be Creative and Be Flexible
These two, creativity and flexibility, go hand-in-hand, and they are a nursing specialty! As nurses, I believe we can creatively find solutions and make adjustments to almost any challenge. That is the nature of the nursing process. Being creative and flexible simply means finding and experimenting with a Sabbath rest that works for you.
Because many nurses work rotating days, weekends, and other shifts, a full dedicated day of the week may not be possible. If you are a nurse with weekend obligations, choose a day in the middle of the week. Caring for children and loved ones may prevent a traditional Sabbath rest. If you have small children, make your Sabbath rest a time of discovery and fun at the park, the beach, or elsewhere.
What a beautiful way to share the reverence and reliance of God, then to go for a walk and see how our Creator cares for all living things. I emphasize this with my nursing students, who are frazzled with the onslaught of nursing studies, family obligations, and work responsibilities. I encourage them to take a Friday evening after school and have a movie night with their children, a date night, or a walk with their friends. This can be a time for reflection and rest with their family.
As mentioned, the idea of a complete day of rest may not be possible, so devise strategies to get the most rest from the least amount of time.
Maybe spouses or single parents could trade off times. One spouse could take the kids to the park for the afternoon, while the other one enjoys a quiet day at home. Or single parents could coordinate days, switching times of watching children with a Sabbath rest. Be creative and be flexible.
The idea is to rest and enjoy the relationship we have with our Lord. If you end up being stressed and overworked “preparing” for the activity to happen during Sabbath, the purpose is defeated. Reevaluate a less stressful way to enjoy your time of rest. Be sure to institute a “no work” or “no study” policy during your Sabbath time. It is amazing how projects, reading, and other side activities can creep into our rest.
Adjust Your Commitments
This is where it gets difficult. We can be inspired and excited about a “day of rest,” but when we have to say “no” to work, volunteering, and commitments, we loose focus.
I struggled with this step. At the time, I had been working every other weekend for a hospice agency and felt that I couldn’t cut my days. Sounds silly now, but “they needed me,” and “I would let them down, and. . . .”
The excuses were endless and I turned in another monthly schedule of working every other weekend. I felt horrible, knowing I had disobeyed God, so, I mustered enough courage and called my supervisor. I explained to her that I wanted to stop working Sundays and to work only Saturdays. Her response was classic: “Of course, Carrie, you need a day off.” I still laugh at how silly I felt. The Lord gently reminded me that the issue was with me, and that I needed to get over my “work for fun” mentality. Assess what is going on in your life and pray about your commitments. Can you delegate some responsibilities?
Can you make personal changes and adjustments? Do you really have to volunteer to be a coach, to lead a Bible study, or to host a dinner party? The Holy Spirit will lead you in adjusting your life to be in line with where the Lord is guiding.
Trust the Lord
I mentioned how I struggled with trusting the Lord with my finances. This may be an issue for you. Trusting the Lord is more than just paying the bills. It is believing God to be faithful in all aspects of our lives. Can we trust God with our careers, our children’s activities, our aging parents’ needs, our schedule, our time, our education, and all those other details? When the Lord promises “rest” and that he will work out the details of a situation, do we believe he will?
Do I believe I actually can hear God say “yes, do this” and “no, don’t do this?” Just remember it is a process and trust him with the details of taking you one step at a time. Psalm 57:2 (NASB) states, “I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.” This is an encouraging verse when details loom large.
One of things that amazed me in practicing Sabbath rest was my ability to get more done in six days than I was able to get done previously in seven days. When you make a commitment to a time of rest, you become focused on having that time. It becomes a priceless treasure of time with the Lord and family.
Honor the Lord
Do your best to carve out an entire day for Sabbath, but mainly remember it is about respecting the Lord. This is the basis of Sabbath rest. A wonderful New Testament example is found with Mary, the sister of Martha (Luke 10:38–42). Like Mary, we need to take time to rest and sit at our Lord’s feet to hear his teaching and experience his presence. Experiencing God’s presence goes beyond having a daily devotional, attending church, or participating in a weekly
Bible study. All these activities have us “doing.” Instead, we need time to relax and soak up all that our Lord bestows upon us.
Recognizing our need for the 5 “R’s” of Sabbath is the first step in discovering our own spiritual retreat. We need to rest and rely on our Father in heaven to provide us with consistent renewal. When we practice reverence in our life, our relationships with our Lord and others will grow and be a joy.
Finally, using the tips found in the word SABBATH as a guide,we can implement a time of rest for ourselves and be readily equipped for the demanding good works required in nursing.
Carrie M. Dameron, MSN, RNBC, is an advanced certification med/surg nurse with 15 years experience in surgical nursing, spiritual care, and education. She is assistant professor at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, and an on-call nurse for acute care hospitals in the Oakland area. Carrie has previously written for the Journal of Christian Nursing and is passionate about supporting and educating nurses and nursing students. She attends Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Livermore, California.
From the Journal of Christian Nursing, October-December 2007.
Reprinted by permission of NCF and LWW.