Pastor Robert Morris vividly remembers what he calls the “Great Underwear Crisis of 2004.”
“I was was going 3 or 4 weeks without taking a day off. I had been overseas and was getting dressed when I went to open my drawer and discovered I only had one pair of underwear left,” he told The Christian Post. “I was devastated. I thought, ‘What will I do tomorrow?’ I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even think of simple solutions, like do the wash or go to Walmart for a new pair.”
“Then,” he continued, “I opened my sock drawer and discovered I had no socks. I started crying. My emotions were completely drained. I went to lunch with a friend of mine and told him about it, and that’s when the Lord showed me the importance of truly resting one day a week.”
The pastor of Gateway Church, a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, Morris knows he’s not alone in his struggle to rest, refresh, and renew his mind. He cited statistics revealing an estimated 75-90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related issues, and five out of six of the leading causes of death today are stress-related.
“Sabbath Deficiency Syndrome is the great silent epidemic of our time,” the pastor said. “Asian cultures actually have a word for working yourself to death — and it’s happening in America, too. The consequences can be all sorts of health problems, stress-related problems, anger problems, emotional and mental problems. So many things can go wrong in our bodies and minds and hearts because we’re so stressed out.”
The rise of technology has contributed to an increasingly stressed-out culture, Morris said.
“We used to have a work phone and home phone; you never thought about calling someone over the weekend about a work issue, you waited until you got to the office,” he explained. “Now we carry our work phone in our pocket. We’re working at midnight and over weekends and taking time away from what truly matters. It has crept upon us as a society. We’ve come to a place where it’s truly detrimental and dangerous for us if we don’t take some time off.”
Morris argued that the fourth commandment given to Moses by God is simple: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Yet, it’s the “most ignored commandment” in Scripture.
“It’s not a suggestion; it’s a requirement,” he emphasized. “It’s not about going to church; it’s about resting, doing our work in six days and resting on the seventh. Yet, many Christians will tell you we should do all nine of the commandments. They know lying, committing adultery, and stealing is wrong. But they don’t have a problem with working seven days a week.”
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Morris added, quoting Mark 2:27. “It’s a gift from God. With the Ten Commandments, God is giving us principles to better our lives. It’s the same thing with resting. We need time to follow the principles God has laid out in Scripture to live a healthy, God-honoring life.”
In his new book Take the Day Off,Morris shows chronically under-rested people why and how to really rest and refuel four tanks, emotional, spiritual, physical and mental. He uses biblical examples to encourage readers to rest, relax, and renew their minds without guilt.
“We each have four tanks, and we're constantly using our tanks to fill other people’s tanks," Morris said. "If you’re not replenishing those tanks, you can't pour yourself into others at home, work, or wherever you are. You are unable to be fully present for those around you.”
In his own life, the pastor practices rest by taking one specific day of the week — not necessarily Sunday — off: “I let other people know, ‘This is my Sabbath. It’s my time to be refreshed. I won’t be returning emails,'" Morris shared.
“You need to put practices in place and let everyone know,” he stressed. “Most people will be appreciative and respectful and want to implement those same practices in their own lives.”
“Ask yourself, ‘What replenishes me physically? What replenishes me emotionally?’” he continued. “Some like reading books or watching movies or writing. It’s a little different for each person. There are all sorts of activities, but we’ve got to do something other than work. Allow your mind, body, and emotions to be involved in an activity outside of work.”
Truly resting, the pastor contended, takes humility, adding: “It means I trust God will provide for me if my Sabbath is a day of rest. It comes down to a matter of trust. If I really believe that God is bigger and smarter than I am, I believe He will provide for me even if I don’t work for one day.”
The Sabbath is a “gift” from God that is all-too-often rejected by the receiver, according to Morris. He encouraged readers to "thankfully and humbly receive this free gift from God," understanding it is for their ultimate good.
“God says, ‘If you’ll take a day off and have fun, I’ll take business for you while you do that,’ yet we argue with Him about it,” he said. “The Sabbath is a benefit and blessing and gift. I hope people realize that, 'If I do this, if I obey God’s commandment, I will have a better physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental life and live in the fullness He has for me.'"