Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year, the focus is on stress.

It’s something that is a part of all our lives; whether it be exam stress, money stress or relationship stress and a recent study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that 82% of people feel stressed each week, with 8% feeling stressed all the time.

The modern world isn’t conducive to lowering our stress levels – it’s fast paced, full on and inescapable with 24 hour news, instant availability and blurred boundaries between home and work life.

Stress is an inevitable part of life; yes, but for some it becomes so bad that it induces thoughts of self-harm or suicide; with 16% of those who felt really stressed had self-harmed and a staggering 32% experienced thoughts of suicide.

It’s a problem that we cannot ignore – and I think it’s a problem that the church can speak into.

At the beginning of Genesis 2, we see that resting, taking a Sabbath is meant to take its place at the end of the working week:  

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

The Sabbath, was and is a way to honour God, to reset and to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around us!

An (admittedly limited) twitter poll we ran last week found that a staggering 56% of people asked didn’t observe the Sabbath – our world is non-stop – stopping in its midst is counter cultural, but it’s also vital for our health.

For many of you reading this, I’m sure you’re wondering how on earth a Sabbath works in your setting: parents, church workers and public servants may feel its impossible to have a whole day off – you can’t stop being a parent for a day a week!

But the Sabbath is not meant to be something else to fit in, or stress over – it’s a gift.

And for some that gift can be enjoyed in whole a day a week, for others it’s about finding our rest in God.

As Charles Swindoll writes:

“God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter. (Hebrews 4:1-11)”

If we let it, the Sabbath can be our shelter, our sanctuary from stress and over the next few days we’re going to be exploring how we can make it work practically.