When “Stan” told me that his wife was diagnosed as chronically depressed, I instantly began grieving for him. Next to drug addiction, depression is one of the greatest challenges a family can face, along with unemployment, child rebellion or a major disability. These are serious blows to a family’s joy; we have to be honest about the difficult road such believers tread.

Such a "practical" look requires very practical advice. The Bible stresses the heart as a muscle more than just the centre of emotion, and muscles need to rest and recover. Sports physiologists explain how rest is a crucial part of conditioning; without it, our muscles will break down.

Relationships are no different.

If you’re married to an unusually selfish person, a controlling person, a depressed spouse or even if you’re just wed to an average sinner, on some days you may say to yourself, "Today, I just need a short break."

It’s okay to need a break

That’s okay. The idea of a Sabbath was God’s, after all. Even when you’re married to an agreeable person, at times the two of you will butt heads, and you’ll need to occasionally take a break so that you can look at the situation with fresh eyes and renewed energy.

There’s a big difference between escape and refreshment. A Biblical Sabbath of refreshment points back to work; we rest so that we can become even more engaged in the future, asking God to refresh us in order that we might fulfill His high call to love our spouse and children. It’s like sharpening the saw – we’re doing something besides the direct work we’re called to because, in the end, it will help us complete that work even better.

The healing power of laughter

If you’re experiencing a difficult time in your marriage or with one of your children, one of the best things you can do is get out and laugh – find a few friends, rent a comedy, read a long novel, go on a retreat. We are limited human beings with finite resources, yet the Bible calls us to a supernatural love beyond our strength. That should teach us two things: we need to radically depend on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, and we need to occasionally take breaks. Charles Spurgeon once said that many spiritual ills could be solved if we’d simply get a good night’s sleep. Tiredness makes us resentful, bitter, petty, angry and worse.

Good for you for being so conscientious toward your family responsibilities! But remember – you’re running a marathon. You can’t keep sprinting. Sometimes, you need true Sabbath rest. Give yourself a break today.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is the founder and director of the Center for Evangelical Spirituality, a writing and speaking ministry that integrates Scripture, church history and the Christian classics. He is the author of many books, including Sacred Marriage, Sacred Parenting, Cherish, The Sacred Search and A Lifelong Love, and co-author of Married Sex: A Christian Couple’s Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life.

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