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Sabbath Rest: 3 Books that will Help You Rest in God

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Let’s face it. Resting in God isn’t always at the top of the priority list for a busy mom. Usually, we’re driven by actionable items: keep everyone alive today, try not to break your leg tripping over legos, hide some vegetables in those muffins. Sound familiar?

Finding rest in God seems like a far-off dream, something we’ll get to when the kids are older and we have more room to breathe.

But what if we have it backwards?

What if we need the rest of God before we can do any of our other work well? How does a busy mom slow down enough to find rest in God?

That’s the question I am determined to answer this year. Although I started out on a desperate quest for physical rest, I soon realized that no amount of physical rest would ever be enough if I didn’t get to the root of my spiritual unrest. So, I set out on a mission to learn as much as I could about rest, and, like any good mission, it began with reading a boatload of books on how to rest

But I know not everyone has the time to do that, so I want to make it easier for you by highlighting some of the most helpful resources I’ve come across. I’ve posted separate reviews of Teaching From Rest, Present Over Perfect, and The Tech-Wise Family, but today I am going to compare three additional books that will help you find rest in God. 

While all of these books are worth reading, you probably don’t need to read all of them. In this post, I will help you find the best book for you so that you can move deeper into your own sabbath rest.

Which sabbath rest book is right for you?

If you are looking for a scientific, fact-driven approach to finding rest in every area of your life, read Sacred Rest by Saundra Dalton-Smith.

If you want a soulful, guided exploration of the personal aspects of your life that could be inhibiting your ability to rest, read Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray.

If you crave a deep, Biblical explanation of sabbath rest along with thoughtfully selected liturgies to help you cultivate a sabbath heart, read The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan.

1. Sacred Rest, Saundra Dalton-Smith

In Sacred Rest, Saundra Dalton-Smith thoroughly examines seven areas in which we need rest: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative. Drawing on her experience as a physician, she discusses case studies of patients who have presented with a variety of symptoms, but who were all suffering from the same condition: a lack of rest.

Like many mothers, Dalton-Smith is a people-pleaser who burned herself out trying to be everything to everybody. She ignored her need for rest until it refused to be ignored any longer (which is probably the case for most of us), finally recognizing that a burned out woman cannot please anyone, including herself.  

Dalton-Smith notes that, “Rest has become synonymous with sleep, or the cessation of all activity.” I’ve found this to be true in my own quest for rest. When I tell people that I’m spending the year resting, their reaction often indicates that they have this vision of me (or themselves) sprawled out on a lawn chair sipping iced lattes (or some similar version of “doing nothing”).

But, while we did take a break from every activity we were committed to, it’s not like we’re doing nothing. Time has a way of filling itself back up. It’s just that the things we’re doing now are more intentional, more restful, more life-giving. 

Dalton-Smith continues, “But what if rest is, in itself, a vital activity required to tend to the garden of our lives? What if rest is the water that replenishes the dryness? What if rest is fertilizer, awakening us to growth and greatness? What if rest is the hands of the gardener pulling up the weeds threatening to edge out beauty?”

From this standpoint, she walks through each of the seven areas mentioned above, helping readers pinpoint their own greatest need(s) for rest, and offering suggestions on how they can make space for the different types of rest in their lives. As a bonus, she offers a quiz online to help you determine exactly what type of rest you’re most in need of.

Want to get your copy?

You can order Saundra Dalton-Smith's Sacred Rest from:

About Saundra Dalton-Smith

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an author, speaker, and board-certified internal medicine physician. Dr. Dalton-Smith is a national and international media resource on the mind, body, spirit connection and a top 100 medical expert in Good Housekeeping Doctors' Secrets. Learn more about Dr. Dalton-Smith.


2. Whispers of Rest, Bonnie Gray

From the publisher: “Whispers of Rest is a 40-day devotional detox for your soul, a spiritual journey to refresh you and guide you to greater peace, while helping you discover who God truly made you to be: His beloved.”

Soul laid bare. If that’s the type of release you are looking for, Whispers of Rest is for you. Each week-long section of the devotional is designed to help you navigate the facets of your being that may be inhibiting your capacity to rest in your identity as God’s beloved. Bonnie Gray leads us along the journey as we learn to be, choose, dream, heal, dare, and shine as the beloved.  

Each day, she offers several navigational tools: an introductory call to the topic of the day, a verse and a quote to support the call, a short story, a representative example from scripture, a letter written from Jesus’ perspective (based on scripture), a prayer, reflection questions, a liturgy, a rest challenge, and a note about the scientific evidence for the benefits of the proposed action. 

While each of these components is beneficial, I found the reflection questions to be the most eye-opening and powerful aspect of the Whispers of Rest devotional. These questions really dig into the strongholds that grip the heart and spirit, keeping us from the rest we were created to need. Here are some of the questions Bonnie Gray poses:

  • What is the net you’ve been holding on to? What is holding you back [from saying YES to Jesus]?
  • What have you enjoyed getting lost in doing, that once gave you joy? Why did you stop?
  • How are wounds from the past affecting your well-being, confidence, decision making, and relationships today? How can you take steps to heal those wounds?

To get a better understanding of how reflecting on the questions in this devotional can help you find the rest you need, you can check out my own reflections, which I chronicled on Instagram.

Want to get your copy?

You can order Bonnie Gray's Whispers of Rest from:

About Bonnie Gray

Bonnie Gray is an inspirational speaker and retreat leader who has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation.  Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. Learn more about Bonnie Gray.


3. The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan

I have to be honest with you—Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God is one of the best books I've ever read. While I enjoyed the previous two titles quite a lot and recognize that some readers will prefer them, this one just bowled me over. I listened to the audiobook but I have to order the physical copy as well because there is simply too much good stuff in here to transcribe it all. I need something I can really mark up. 

The Rest of God not only confirmed the lessons I've learned through my own lack of rest, but vastly expanded my understanding of both our need for rest and how to find it. 

One thing that sets The Rest of God apart is Buchanan's focus on sabbath as not only a time that we set apart but also a state of our hearts. Setting aside 'sabbath time' is meaningless unless it is accompanied by a sabbath heart. At the same time, the sabbath heart carries on through the week, bringing the benefits of the sabbath rest into even the craziest of days. 

I loved Buchanan's comparison of sabbath-keeping to marriage:

"The root of the Hebrew word for sanctify means to betroth. It is to pledge marriage. It is to choose to commit yourself, all of yourself, to this man or this woman, and then to honor that commitment in season and out. Sanctifying time works the same way. You pledge to commit yourself, all of yourself, to this time, and then you honor that commitment, whether it is convenient or not...

Just so with sabbath time. Sabbath is time sanctified. Time betrothed. Time we receive and approach differently from any other time. We are more intimate with it. We are more thankful for it. We are more protective of it and generous with it. We become more ourselves in the presence of sabbath, more vulnerable, less afraid. More ready to be silent, to confess, to be small, to be valued."

 Throughout the book, he reminds us that sabbath is a gift, a time set apart for us by God, because he created us to need it, and he knew that it was good for us. In each chapter, he also offers sabbath liturgies to help us practice sabbath more meaningfully. These are not intended to be a checklist that we need to get through—Buchanan is certainly not advocating for legalism here—but opportunities for us to awaken ourselves more fully to the presence of God, to listen more acutely for His voice, to sense more completely His stillness. 

Want to get your copy?

You can order Bonnie Gray's Whispers of Rest from:

About Mark Buchanan

Mark Buchanan is a former pastor and Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University. He is the author of seven books and contributes to many publications including Leadership Journal, Christianity Today, ChristianWeek, Focus on the Family magazine, In Touch magazine, Faith Today, Books & Culture, Conversations, Crux, and other periodicals. Learn more about Mark Buchanan.

What's your favourite sabbath rest book?

Did one of these stand out more for you than the others? Do you have another favourite we should know about? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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