REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY, TO KEEP IT HOLY
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, working from home has become a new norm for many people. While this has been a gift for some, others say the line between their professional and personal lives has blurred. A recent study by Cigna, a U.S. health services company, found that anxiety levels increased among workers in Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong after governments closed parts of their economies and telecommuting swept the region. Consequently, the number of people in Singapore seeking help for mental issues have risen in these past few months. How can we cope with the accompanying stress of such new norms? By turning to the ancient Word of God.
The importance of the Sabbath is enshrined in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:8-10). God commanded the Israelite to work six days in a week and set the seventh apart where no work is to be done. Two reasons are given for the keeping of the Sabbath. Firstly, God Himself has set us an example. For six days God created and on the seventh He rested (Exodus 20:11). If God Almighty chose to rest on the seventh day, His creatures can do no better. We are not created to be always on. Secondly, the Israelites are commanded to rest because they are no longer slaves (Deuteronomy 5:15). Resting from work is a sign and a reminder of our new found freedom in God.
While we may know its importance, rest is not something that comes naturally to many of us. We need to be reminded to keep the Sabbath. That is why the children of Israel have developed elaborate rituals around the Sabbath. For example, Sabbath begins each week with the lighting of candles and the recitation of the Sabbath blessing at an evening meal. While we may not need such elaborate rituals, we do need cues to take our rest both on a weekly and a daily basis. Before the new norm of telecommuting, there were distinct markers to signal the end of work each day. For example, the very act of leaving the office reminds us subconsciously that we are transiting out of work into rest. With the new norm of working from home, we need new markers in our daily rhythm to signal this transition. A simple but intentional activity such as packing our work area or taking a walk at the end of the work day helps to remind us it is time to rest. On a weekly basis, setting aside a day for non-work activities such as going to church or spending time with our loved ones helps to remind us to cease from our work and enter into rest. So as we adjust to the new norm brought about by Covid-19, may the wisdom of God’s word be our guide. May we learn to bring the sanctity of the Sabbath back into our life.
Rev. David Lee