Really, it’s pretty amusing when you step back and think about it.

Here we are, mothers of bustling families, running around like crazies all week, wishing for time off or a day out, and griping in our own heads about the amount of work there is to do. Sunday comes, the 10 Commandments are read, and we think, “Well, God didn’t actually mean one of those. There’s no way I can take a day off.”

Sure enough, the thing you know you need is exactly the thing God has made provision for. And instead of receiving it joyfully, we reenact the Israelites’ wandering.

Yes, I’m using “we” very deliberately here, because I am there with you; I’ve been struggling and whining and doubting and complaining for years over this issue. I’m starting to see and feel some dawning light, but it’s not something I’ve mastered yet or fully obey yet, not by a long stretch.

I need to be challenged to take the command seriously, though, and I bet you do to.

There’s one problem: Very few of the people writing about sabbath keeping are moms with young and growing children.

It’s very clear-cut for a career man or woman. They shouldn’t go in to work. It’s a home day. Good. What if all days are home days? What if the home is your work? What if you’re surrounded by your working list everywhere you turn? How can we actually take Sunday off, right smack in the middle of everything that needs to be done – and while people still insist on eating and making messes?

Because, let’s be real, Sunday morning is the most chaotic morning of the week. Clothes everywhere. Breakfast left out. Bathrooms disastrous.

How is that restful??

It isn’t.

And that’s the trick right there. In Christ, we can rest, even when the house is falling down around us. Even when the to do list is still a mile long, if Christ says to us, “Hey, today, just stop.” Wouldn’t we?

Turns out we wouldn’t. Turns out we’re like the Israelites. God says there’ll be enough for the Sabbath, but we don’t gather extra and then complain when the manna doesn’t show up. God says he’ll take care of us, but we aren’t so sure because it doesn’t look the way we want it to look. We want a day of rest made in our own image.

A Sabbath day of rest is a tangible, visible practice of offering to God the first fruits of my time and trusting Him for my needs - and even for Monday morning cheerfulness and energy.

Yes, a Sabbath should be a day of rest, but we start with our own expectations instead of with faith. We want the day to look like our version of rest. We want the house to be clean and calm and peaceful. In fact, we demand that it must be before we will make it a day of rest, so we scramble and scramble and never get there.

Sunday doesn’t look like the ideal version we’ve created in our heads, and so we say it doesn’t “count.” We refuse to receive the rest offered because it doesn’t look the way we expected or wanted it to.

What if taking a day of rest looked like leaving the laundry in the dryer and the dishes in the sink? What if it looked like not spazzing out over the bedrooms and bathrooms, even though there’s no other day of the week they look so bad?

But my Monday! I know. Mondays are hard, right? Now they’re just going to be worse. Great.

So grumble the Israelites, not believing that God knows what He’s doing and has got this covered.

Do you want to take a weekly sabbath, a day of rest, on Sunday, but have found it impossible? Here's the secret you might not have considered.

True rest is by faith, not by sight. It is obeying first, trusting God will come through and make it all work. Turns out that sometimes it’s even obeying before it makes sense, before the issue is a clear-cut case in my own head!

Maybe I don’t need to understand what perfect obedience looks like before I begin. After all, Christ is my perfect obedience. Instead, I can take a small first step. I can say, “You know, for Sunday, I won’t care about the state of the kids’ rooms and I won’t make a to-do list and I won’t think about homeschooling.” Instead of trying to start with a total day of rest, perfectly out of the gate, start with the obvious and grow gradually from there.

Yes, I will make food and I won’t do it while wishing people didn’t have to eat everyday. Yes, I will wipe up a spill or wash wet sheets or give a child a bath or a hundred other little things – but I’m not counting each one as something I shouldn’t have to do with a discontented heart.

Turns out even on Sundays children need parents. Particularly on Sundays, children need parents who show them joy and strength and peace of mind in the Lord.

On Sunday I can make my bed if it’s a habit and I do it in joy. Or, if it doesn’t happen on a crazy Sunday morning, it won’t count against my track record. Sundays are free days. Sundays I remember that it’s not my work that gets me ahead or that matters apart from grace. Sundays are the day I remember everything must be done in trust.

A Sabbath day is a day I don’t try to get ahead.

Then, come Monday, when the work is there, I can dig in. I’ve rested. I can do what needs to be done with energy instead of resentment, with joy instead of bitterness and fatigue.

It’s not that the work disappears or that it’s another regulation to keep. Starting the week with a day of rest is a tangible, visible practice of offering to God the first fruits of my time and trusting Him for my needs – and even for Monday morning cheerfulness and energy.

Because so often the laundry pile has stared at me on Sunday evening, and I have crumbled. The state of the bathroom or the kids’ closets on Sunday morning makes me lose my cool.

I used to think that meant I had a planning problem or an execution problem – something was wrong and there was too much to do and AHHH. Now when that tense, anxious frustration begins to well up, I see not a problem with my workload, but with my pride and self-sufficiency.

I’m not ok with being Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet while He’s there, when His invitation comes to take a day of rest. There is a time to prepare and work and serve like Martha, and there is a time reserved for worship and rest like Mary. When the Lord’s Day is prioritized and taken in faith, those Martha jobs on Monday are not fretful and fussy, but joyful service, informed by Mary’s focus.

We don’t earn our day of rest by getting all our work done ahead of time, and a sabbath does not make work disappear. But it is a blessing, a gift offered, that we should receive with faith and gladness.

My thanks to Rachel Jankovic for continuing to push this topic, living it out and sharing about it. For more on this topic I recommend her podcast What Have You episode 27, Sabbath Hearts on her blog, and any webinar she offers.

Is there never enough time to rest?

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  1. Whaaaaa??? You didn’t even say anything about having to earn our Sundays by working more the rest of the week! Like…we should rest regardless??!!? Loved reading this. Pretty shocking to my worldview.

  2. One of the things I do on Sunday is to read…for pleasure! Sometimes it’s an academic book, sometimes it’s a theological book, sometimes a novel. But I’m NOT reading the book to review it or to determine its appropriateness or to gauge its place in the curriculum. It’s just for my own development ?. A book that is feeding me and refreshing me. Felt like a guilty pleasure at first! I also don’t wear my Fitbit, don’t track what I’m eating… all the little things I try to keep up with during the week.

  3. So good… As dairy farmers we always struggle with this – the cows still need to get milked & eat just like kids :). This is a great perspective! Thanks! Love your stuff!

  4. This is so helpful. I’ve been appreciating rest this Sunday since I’m sick at home while the family is off to church. And when I’m sick it’s a lot easier to ignore all the messes because I just don’t have the energy. Reading this article today took it so much deeper. I only slow down like this when I’m immobilized by a nasty cold??? I loved the subtle reminder that Sunday is the first day of the week and we are giving God “the firstfruits of our time”. That really does put it into the perspective of resting first, obeying first, and trusting the Lord for the rest of the week.

  5. I hate getting up on Sundays because I know that whatever I do, I’m going to be stressed and behind the ball. I need to rest but if I do (as I chose this Sunday) it makes us late for church. Unfortunately breakfast still needs to be made, dishes still need to be put away, lunch still needs to be prepared, elderly grandmother should be visited…

  6. Thank you for a wonderful article that untangles the thorny mess of housework from the grace of resting at God’s feet like Mary.

    Something that has blessed my family is observing the Sabbath on the 7th day of the week, Saturday. We still go to worship at church on Sunday, but because my husband is in ministry Sunday is always a very long exhausting demanding work day. (It feels like trench warfare as our family is always hammered by spiritual attacks leading up to and on Sunday). Other pastor’s wives I know describe the same experience – the kids act out, the car breaks down, someone gets sick, etc… I used to joke that Murphy’s Law applies with triple force on Sunday, or any week my husband is prepping a sermon. Except it’s not Murphy’s Law, it is darkness seeking to oppose those who serve God’s kingdom of light. I think that’s one reason why Sunday mornings are soooo hard for any family trying to go to church!

    So all that to say…sabbathing on the seventh day has actually resolved much of the angst and turmoil of Sunday. Saturday is worshipful rest, enjoying the fruit of God’s labors and grace on our behalf (with all the messes and dishes piling up, but trusting those to the Lord) while Sunday we put our hand to the plow and labor in worship and ministry from morning til evening.

    This is not at all to start a controversy, since there are church traditions about Sunday. Again, we respect those and worship corporately on Sunday. But I just wanted to share how we’ve been blessed as we seek the Lord of the Sabbath on his terms. I love the question in the article about whether we are sabbathing in our image or in God’s. I have definitely been looking for rest on my terms and am weekly confronted with how unrestful that ultimately is for my heart and my family. Thank you again for a very insightful article.

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