Take a little break these days in December and re-center yourself with these devotions from the Sunday| Mag contributors.


Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Just yesterday, I taught a seminar to a group of local pastors on how to use social media effectively. During the question and answer period, one of the pastors made a remark about his life that struck me as a good analogy for how we go about design. He said that he and his wife planted a church more than a year ago, and in that whole year he had taken only one day off.

Just one day off in an entire year.

It’s natural for us to want to pour ourselves into what we do. But God instituted Sabbaths into the seasons, the weeks, and the years so that we would rest. Jesus told us in the verse above that He would give us rest. Hebrews 4:3 says that “we who believe enter that rest.” Work needs to be counterbalanced by time off.

Essentially the same principle holds true in design. If you look at the majority of church visuals, you’ll see a recurring theme of overrun busy-ness. We try to cram and stuff as much as we possibly can into a single graphic, or a single website—much like we do with our own lives. More is better, right?

Not if we want to create great design. There’s a concept in design called “negative space.” It’s the portion of the design that’s left empty. Maybe it’s just white space or just the background. It’s what allows the subject of the design to breathe, to shine, and to have an impact. The negative space is equally as important as the principal design.

While the negative space seems like it isn’t doing anything, it’s actually serving an integral purpose in the overall piece. The negative space gives the subject of the design its own positive space. The subject gets its power and impact because of the counterbalance of the negative space.

We use a different term for negative space in our own schedules: we call it margin. Without margin in our lives, we tend to fill our calendars with busy-ness. We are likely to overwork in the name of worthwhile goals but, in doing so, our power and impact are diminished.

Without margin in our lives, we tend to fill our calendars with busy-ness.

The spiritual principles of life—sowing and reaping, pruning and growing, laboring and resting—hold true in every area, including the arts. Built into good design is a kind of Sabbath rest—negative space that isn’t meant to be filled but to remain empty. Leave room for rest in your designs and they will, in effect, work harder and smarter to fulfill your purpose.