Resting in God’s Faithfulness: My Shimetah Year
In my last post on this topic, I shared how Yehovah demonstrated his faithfulness to me very specifically over one year’s time. He replaced my fears with faith and changed my perspective to one that allows me to stay in his peace and rest every day.
A couple of years later I was working on new projects and new goals. I still had my new perspective and was still trusting God for all of my provisions, but I was still striving. Not out of fear, but for accomplishment – improvement in my career, progress on changes I wanted in my personal life, projects and goals I had set for things I wanted to change or improve.
That’s not all bad, but for me there was this feeling of discontent, that things weren’t what they could be. This feeling kept me striving, antsy, a little on edge, impatient, trying to get things on track the way I thought they should be. I could feel this drive to make something of my life.
There are these underlying motivations that we inherit from our culture that drive us to strive for more than what God has given us. It could be the need to have accomplishments to point to, it could be the need for recognition, the need for approval, the need to prove ourselves worthy or relieve guilt, or to have a larger impact or larger influence, it could be fear. These types of motivations only feed our sense of anxiety and discontent.
But the Bible tells us: “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 34:7
The Principle of the Shemitah
Well, I had been observing the weekly Sabbath, refraining from my work and projects each week, gathering with other believers and enjoying God and his blessings, putting away my worries and work.
But the Bible also talks about a Sabbath year – a year every seventh year in which the Israelites were to rest from their work. To them this meant no sowing seeds and no reaping the harvest. (Some farmers in Israel still do this, and all over the world they’ve found that when they let their fields rest, they produce more and the soil stays more productive. It’s called “letting a field lie fallow.”)
In the Bible it’s referred to as a Sabbath year or Shemitah year. On the Hebrew calendar the year 2015 was a Sabbath year and so is the year 2022. (The Hebrew year begins with Tishrei 1 in the Fall of the previous year.)
Look at Leviticus 25:
“The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, “When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.’”
…. 18 ‘“Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.”’”
Wow! If only we lived in a culture that recognized this law now! A whole year off and just living off a supernatural sixth year.
The principle behind it is not just for the land to regenerate, but also for us to learn to trust in God’s faithfulness and live in his blessing.
Now think about this: In the seventh year, the people ate the crops from what they had planted the sixth year. When they came to the time of planting in the seventh year, they still had plenty of food from the sixth year. But eventually they had to ask themselves – “If I don’t plant anything in the Spring of the seventh year, what am I going to eat in the Fall? And if I don’t plant anything in the Fall of the seventh year, what am I going to eat in the Spring of the eighth year?”
That’s what verse 21 answers – God promises to bless them. They’ll be living on God’s supernatural blessing.
To actually not plant any seeds in the seventh year requires that they completely believe God is their only provider and source of all they need. They had to trust in his supernatural provision. They’re trusting that what he provided in the sixth year, and whatever he will miraculously provide in the seventh and eighth years will sustain them until the crops they plant in the eighth year can be harvested in the ninth year.
They’re trusting in a miracle. That’s a lot of trust. Do we trust him that much?
Well, I decided to try it.
My Shemitah Year
In our culture you can’t quit your job and start it up again the next year. So I didn’t quit my job – I’ll save that experiment for another year. But I did put aside all my ambitions – I didn’t start any new projects, I only pursued those that God brought me if they just fell in my lap undeniably. I didn’t try to change they way anything was – my job, my finances, my future plans or pursue any of the things I felt I needed to accomplish.
I looked for any area of my life where I felt I was striving or discontent. I decided to see what God could do if I just left all these things at his feet and accept everything as it was, be content with the way things were. So I continued with my job and with my family and congregation commitments, but other than those, I rested from other projects.
That made me nervous. I felt lazy, like I wasn’t using my time wisely. I was nervous that things would decline or I’d miss opportunities. At first it was difficult. I had lots of ideas of what I could do with my new free time. But I restrained and kept reminding myself that I was taking a Sabbath year.
Here’s the verse that came to mind: Exodus 14:13 & 14b. This is during the time of the Exodus. The Israelites have left Egypt and the Egyptians are pursuing them. They’re now standing at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians coming up behind them. And what does God tell them?
13 “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today…; 14 The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.’”
This was my agreement with the Lord that year – I would stand still and keep silent. He would accomplish for me and fight for me. I kept that verse in front of me that whole year.
The Hebrew Shemitah year began in the fall of 2014. I finally began my Shemitah year on January 1, 2015. By May 2, just four months later, my whole perspective had changed.
The Peace of the Sabbath Every Day
I have a habit on every Sabbath to bring just one thing to God in prayer for myself. I search my heart for where I’m most worried, or anxious, or scared or confused or frustrated – whatever is bothering me most. I’ve done this for the past few years, and every Saturday, there’s something – even if it’s for someone else – there’s something worrying or frustrating me.
On May 2, 2015, there was nothing. I searched my heart – and yes, there were things I could worry about, but on that day I realized I no longer felt worry, frustration or concern. I felt happy, peaceful and confident. Nothing had changed about any of my circumstances – only my attitude.
I had decided not to worry about my circumstances anymore, and it had the opposite effect than I thought. Instead of feeling like nothing was getting done, I felt like things were right where they needed to be. I was completely content – not that everything was perfect, but that God had everything in hand. With him in charge, there was nothing I needed to worry about, nothing I needed to change. Even things I didn’t understand didn’t matter, because I knew that God would guide me through them.
And then it came to me: Philippians 4:6-7:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This was now my reality. This is truly how I felt. This was a real place I could live every day. So now, that’s where I live.
God’s Supernatural Provision
But it was only May; the Sabbath year continued.
I keep a diary and at the end of that year, I read back over the things that had gone on. In the areas I had stopped pursuing that year I counted 19 things that God brought about. He opened new doors in areas that I did not even see. He even brought several new opportunities I hadn’t pursued before. I had break-throughs on things where I hadn’t been able to make progress. I got two job offers that I turned down, because I was now content in the job I had.
That year I learned what God can do when I’m not taking matters into my own hands. I learned that in order to realign with God’s will, to truly submit my life and cares to him and actually let him answer my prayers, I sometimes have to completely rest and refrain from pursuing things myself.
Because I let my ambitions and my own goals go for a period of time, he was able to answer some of my long-term prayers; he changed my perspectives on my pursuits and provided things I didn’t even know I needed – things I would have not imagined.
I found that when I truly give my cares to him and walk away, he answers. He is faithful, and I am changed.
Now I live with the understanding that I don’t need to stress and strive and run myself ragged trying to make things go the way I think they ought to. I don’t feel the worry of making progress – or not making progress – on various things that I’d like to accomplish. When things take a detour from where I thought I was going, I don’t try to fix it all back to my ideal. I’m content, because I know God’s got this. He’s in charge. He knows what’s ahead better than I do, and he’s got plans I know nothing about. He knows the plans he has for me and I can trust him to bring them about.
“Be anxious for nothing.”
“Stand still and see my salvation.”
“Keep silent while I fight for you.”
“The peace of God surpasses all comprehension.”
This is a real place I can live every day. So now I do, and everything is as it should be, all because I completely gave my burdens and cares to him for a year.