Do you ever get to the end of a Sunday feeling shattered? If you've come to church in the morning, gone to someone's house for lunch (or done the actual hosting), made it to the afternoon service, then talked to people after the service, by the time you get home, you can be exhausted, and frazzled. Rather than being replenished by Sundays, it's easy to feel drained.
How does that square with Sunday as a day of rest? Jesus' promised: "you will find rest for your souls" (Matt 11:29): why aren't you getting any?! Are we doing something wrong? Why are we staring into the week ahead already feeling tired? Are we filling Sundays with too much "stuff"? Wouldn't it be spiritually wise to cut back, and just come to church in the morning? Don't we need to make the Lord's day a more relaxed day?
Here's some counsel:
Remember, biblical "rest" is not inactivity
Rest is not the same thing as relaxation. It's easy to hear the Bible's promise of Sabbath rest and picture yourself on holiday, lying on a sun-lounger, by a swimming pool, with a drink in your hand. But that's a self-indulgent view of "rest". God's command doesn't say: "Remember the Sabbath day, by hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock a few more times...", but "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex 20:8). This rest is from what we do the other six days, in order to draw near to God. So, "holy" rest means deliberately stopping the ordinary stuff, in order to be able to concentrate on Jesus your Lord.
See yourself as the right kind of consumer Christian
"Consumer Christianity" normally describes being picky and shopping around churches, looking for things, like the right vibe, the right mix of people, the right music, and convenient transport. What's the answer to "consumer Christianity"? Christians often argue in response: "no, we come to church to give, rather than to get". But, in a very real sense, we come to church as consumers. That's the gospel! We come to church to consume Christ according to John 6 (e.g. v.54). At church, God invites us to "come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa 55:1).
It's like on Sundays, God is inviting you into a supermarket, with the shelves stacked high, and telling you to fill your trolley up with as much produce as you can, and it's all free (e.g. Psalm 81:10)! Being a consumer in the right way means waking up on a Sunday morning, and thinking "I want to finish the day, with my shopping bags full of Jesus Christ and his gifts".
Let the Sunday services be the last thing you cut back on
Cutting back on church attendance in order to rest is "cutting off your nose to spite your face". It's like a thirsty man saying "no" to the drinking fountain, or a hungry man saying "no" to the feast. It's a kind of spiritual eating disorder.
But there may well be things it could be wise to cut back on a Sunday. Hospitality is great and biblical (Acts 2:46), but there can be times when saying "no" to both offering and receiving hospitality on a Sunday can be wise. There could be occasions when exiting church quickly is the best thing to do, because you need to go home and sleep. The key question is: what will help you (and your family) be ready to draw near to God with his people? It could be that the way we show hospitality needs tweaking – inviting guests to have some quiet time, or a quick snooze, can be great.
Be realistic about other factors that are making you tired
If your week is a cake, the bigger slice you take on one day, the less cake there is leftover. If our Sundays aren't going well, sometimes the cause lies somewhere else in the week.
This is something I'm often surprised people don't notice. Decisions taken earlier in the week will impact what happens on the next Sunday. If you're too busy to do house-work during the week, and Saturday is crammed, it'll end up spilling into Sundays. A busy Saturday will have an impact on your Sunday. Are there things you can cut back on (or be disciplined with) during the week, so that you can get a good night's rest on Saturday?
Remember, there's a good kind of exhaustion
Christians are soldiers, and fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil is hard work. But there's nothing like that happy exhaustion you feel when you've accomplished something. Sports players feel it after a match. Sometimes that is what we're feeling on Sunday evening. Our tiredness is an encouraging sign that we've served the LORD and loved his people. Love is exhausting, and getting yourself and your family to church is an achievement. But it's worth it. We're not doing it to tick a box, or to get brownie points from God, but because this kind of self-sacrifice is the route to life (Mark 8:35). When we get to glory, we'll rest from our labours (Rev 14:13), but until then, tiredness is a mark of our pilgrimage (Heb 11:13-14).
So, when you next experience that Sunday evening exhaustion, remember not to let your feelings be the gauge of what's going on. Often, God is recharging your batteries in ways you don't expect. And keep seeking him, in whom alone there is perfect rest.
This article first appeared on the website of All Nations Ilford and is printed here with kind permission.