Sabbath for Moms

How to Practice Rest with Kids

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Guest Contributor

In the moments when God lifts the veil, we remember that everyday motherhood — the naps and snacks, the tears and tantrums, the triumphs and the training — all of it really is a decades-long rescue mission outside the gates of hell.

Because of that, we enter little moments with big prayers and eternal eyes. We rehearse favorite verses over our children as we scoop and snuggle them. We sing familiar choruses of praise as we change diapers, prepare meals, and perform nightly tuck-ins. We wipe glistening cheeks and gaze into little eyes, yearning for their hearts to be Christ’s and for their ways to be his ways. How could we rest under the weight of such eternal, soul-shaping work?

And that’s not to mention the lists of endless tasks that surround and beat against our minds (because children are not only souls but have bodies, minds, and emotions that require nourishment, care, and time). Children need love, homes require attention, and for every job that we complete, five more creep onto our plates.

In these ways, we relate to the Proverbs 31 woman who “rises while it is yet night” and whose “lamp does not go out” (Proverbs 31:15, 18). We’ve had days like hers. Another side of her is more elusive, though. Hidden beneath all her hard work is a deep and abiding rest. “She laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:25) because she trusts the one who bears her burdens and enables her to labor and sacrifice like she does. She is a woman — a mother — who rests.

True Rest for Tired Moms

The fourth commandment — “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) — came not only to working men, but to mothering women. Moms wonder, “How do I rest with so much at stake? How do I rest with so much on my plate?” Rest, we know, is not ultimately found in a place, season, or circumstance, but in a person.

Christ ended our endless toil to justify ourselves before God when he declared to the unrested, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). Christ became the Sabbath for us. And we have entered into that rest through faith in his atoning work (Hebrews 4:3).

God rested after his creation work (Genesis 2:2–3), Christ rested after his salvation work (Hebrews 10:12), and Christ extends his rest to laboring moms who never judge that their jobs are done. “It is finished” (John 19:30) mercifully frees the hearts of weary moms who tend to trust the value of completing tasks or gospel missions over Christ’s finished work. He doesn’t need a mother’s laboring yoke to accomplish his purpose. She needs his to rest her weary heart.

Ways to Rest with a Family

Although we’re free in Christ to observe a formal Sabbath or not (Colossians 2:16–17), dads and moms who adopt intentional family discipleship rhythms may be looking for ways to make rest practical, possible, and Christ-centered for the whole family. Here are a few rhythms that have been a blessing in our home (and helped this mom find peace and rest in the midst of daily motherhood).

1. We Feast Together

In Acts 16, a Philippian jailer and his entire family hear the gospel, believe, are baptized, and together rejoice over their newfound rest in Christ (Acts 16:29–34). God’s providence found the family together through hymns sung in the darkness, an earthquake, and the ministry of Paul and Silas, so they received Jesus and rested together. Families who hear and rehearse the gospel together can experience realities like what happened in that jailer’s home.

“They have special claims upon us who gather around our table and our hearth,” pronounces Charles Spurgeon, for “God has not reversed the laws of nature, but he has sanctified them by rules of grace” (“Household Salvation”). God forms families and loves to bless the ministry that unfolds at dinner tables and in living rooms through quality time together. Our “feasting” rhythms — seeing and savoring Jesus together (Isaiah 55:1–2) — enable us to bring the word, worship, and prayer to the entire family.

Daily rhythms centered on gospel intentionality may include family devotions (and perhaps welcoming older children to join in early morning devotions), read-alouds or storytelling, modeling repentance and interceding for others, Scripture study and memorization, and worship tailored to different family styles and schedules. And through the gift of that more intentional, structured time together, the Spirit often brings the word to mind in the more spontaneous and unexpected moments of the day as we sit, walk, lie down, and rise (Deuteronomy 6:7). We “feast” to capture the heart of our journey home toward the fullness of Christ. And we feast together, as all who trust in him will one day.

2. We Play Together

When my kids commend Christ’s works to the next generation (Psalm 145:4), they may testify they experienced Jesus more when I splashed and snorted as a pretend pig in a mud pool than in my most creative or articulate presentations of the gospel.

A mom’s hands, as mine are far too often, may be busy at work but idle in play. But a mother “looks well to the ways of her household” when she understands children often know and are known through play — and “rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:27–28). Perhaps we learn more about our children’s hearts through five minutes of play than through fifty minutes of observation. It reminds us of our roles as shepherd-sheep who will stand not above our children but together with them before the King’s throne. If we want to usher them into the world to come, we need to be prepared to enter their present worlds now.

Legos, playgrounds, imaginative play, block towers, sports, and games filled with laughter invite our families into the heart of God, who delights in his people (Zephaniah 3:17) — enough to die to buy our rest. All children, including dads and moms, are freed to play because of what God has already accomplished for us. And as we play with them, our children’s humble delight in simple gifts unknowingly invites us to become like them.

3. We Rest Together

For us, “Family Fun Night” (or “Family Sabbath”) invites more excitement, joy, and special planning than most rhythms. The prophet Isaiah describes the Sabbath as a day of “delight in the Lord,” a time when God’s people “ride on the heights of the earth” (Isaiah 58:13–14). Christ invites us to consider a special rest that reminds us the best is yet to come — and this special, set-apart time will surprise families with restful joy now and a foretaste into heaven’s glorious rest to come.

Family rest fosters purposeful, distraction-free time together for everyone after another full week. In our family, we allow each family member to have a turn planning an evening with a special meal and activity (exploring parks, constructing obstacle courses, playing games, serving together, camping out, and so on). Godward elements woven into these times together remind young and old of our special place in God’s blood-bought family. Individual ownership in planning enables each family member to voice, “Rest has come for me.” And collective enjoyment enables us to proclaim, “Rest will come for us together in Christ. Let’s delight together.”

Rest Never Runs Dry

Even when life’s demands derail our attempts to cultivate rest, Christ still delivers rest. During his earthly ministry, Jesus encouraged the exhausted disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Weary, famished, and overrun, the disciples gladly accepted the invitation — only to find more hunger and chaos. They sought the rest Jesus offered but instead received the impossible command to feed thousands (Mark 6:32–37).

So, did they forfeit rest to feed the crowd? No, Jesus surprised them with a different kind of rest. With five loaves, two fish, and the miraculous hand of God, the disciples fed the whole crowd and had twelve full baskets of food left over (Mark 6:38–43) — one for each disciple. John Piper summarizes the message in those baskets: “When you give everything you have away, you’ll be taken care of.”

The promise of Sabbath holds out more than a break from mothering. It tethers moms to our ongoing need for grace and strength as we lay our lives down for our families. And there’s always enough. Like the woman who gave up her bread for Elijah and never ran out, a mother never exhausts the Bread of Life as she enters into his rest and labors out of it. She never runs out of Christ.

And one day soon, mothers, we will feast on the perfect, unhindered goodness of our God. We will play alongside all children of the King. We will rest, knowing our toil has ended. The unending day is coming soon. Until then, we can take heart. Rest has already arrived.

is a wife to Chad and homeschooling mother of six children. Previously she practiced law and served with InterVarsity, discipling law students in the Twin Cities. Now she writes and speaks on motherhood and missional living.