How to Take a Digital Sabbath

Do You Control Technology or Does It Control You?

How often do you check your email? Social media? The news feed on your smartphone? Can you even remember the last time you went one full day without your digital device?


Maybe you need to give it a rest. A sabbath rest.

God started the whole sabbath thing when he rested after creating everything.

Although he didn’t need a day off, he took one to convey the importance of rest in how His universe functions. Rest is part of the divine design. And yet we often ignore it in our” always on” digital culture.

With 24/7 news, smartphone-accessible email, and non-stop social media feeds, we feel compelled to stay plugged in lest we miss something. The irony is that we could never, ever, remotely, possibly watch, read, listen to, or experience it all—yet still we try.

Our fear of loss compels us to light up the screen for just one more….

We become dependent on the next tech “hit” to sustain us. We get addicted to the dopamine rush. We crave the sense of being plugged in, known, and needed rather than resting in God’s care and rhythm of provision.

In short, we begin defining our worth by our technology: we’re only as good as, as plugged in as, as in control as the last time we checked our news feed, email, or social media timeline.

As an entrepreneur and connecter, I’ve struggled with this the most in checking my email. I’m wired to want to be plugged in, plus I didn’t want to miss any opportunities.

I found that whenever I had what appeared to be a spare moment, I would whip out my phone to see if I was wanted or needed by someone somewhere.

Rather than seeing if there were opportunities around me to engage, I disappeared down the digital rabbit hole to a technological wonderland. Unfortunately, I often felt frustrated, as if I were chasing an elusive white rabbit on a never-ending journey. And I never experienced anything resembling rest because the technology was with me wherever I went.

I decided to take action—or, more precisely, not to take action. I decided to give it a rest.

Now I take a digital sabbath.

How a Digital Sabbath Works

Each week, I designate a 24-hour period in which I don’t check email, not even once. I do not check social media timelines. I don’t even glance at the numerous news sites and blogs which keep me plugged in to what’s happening in the world.

I intentionally unplug for one day of rest from the digital world. I rest in God’s provision for me, instead of my own ability to connect and create opportunity.

For me, the best time to take that digital sabbath is from approximately 5 PM on Saturday to 5 PM on Sunday. I often work on Saturday (since we are called to work 6 days) in and around family projects, so I usually need to be able to check email throughout that day.

But at 5 PM, I check one last time and then shut it down. Anything that comes in after then will just have to wait.

What I discovered is that very little urgent email arrives between Saturday evening and Sunday evening. It’s almost as if other people have a life or something.

I’ve been practicing this concept of a digital sabbath for several months now, and I’ve yet to miss an email that was so critical it couldn’t wait until I re-engaged on Sunday evening, refreshed and refocused as I planned for the new week.

What I realized by unplugging is just how dependent I had become. In many ways, I had begun to put my trust in the glowing screen, to place my hope in the next email that might arrive, or to find my confidence in the prospect of what I might read next.

What about you? Do you ever unplug from the digital world to rest, think, pray—simply be present without lighting up your screen?

Take the Digital Sabbath Challenge

I challenge you to try the digital sabbath once each week.

Choose a 24-hour period in which it makes the most sense for you.

Invite other people in your family or circle of friends to hold you accountable to it. Maybe you could even include them in the challenge together (but don’t let them discourage you from doing it).

I promise the world won’t end. And your faith will be the better for it.

I welcome your questions about how the digital sabbath works and would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

Remember, we worship what we fear. Don’t be afraid of turning off your digital connection for a day to follow God’s divine design.

Rest in Him, not your technology.

Photo credit: Kumar’s Edit / Creative Commons 2.0

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or otherwise unhelpful.

  • Lyn Wynters

    How interesting, Bill, that you bring up this topic! I’ve been aware of media overkill for quite sometime, and although I haven’t set aside a specific time period to TURN IT OFF, I will do so. I know just when it will be: 6PM Friday to 6PM Sabbath (Saturday). I Love the assorted times that I walk away from it and truly enjoy that time, and my sanity is restored. God bless!

    • Love it, Lyn! Let me know how it goes. My entire family is getting in on it now. 🙂