Moms, Pursue Joy Amidst Chaos on Sunday Mornings

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! (Ps. 100:4).

Before having a child, Sundays were, for the most part, peaceful and convenient. I had several hours to myself throughout the day to read, go on prayer walks, or rest. I had no responsibility to dress and feed anyone but myself before leaving in the morning. And I could sit through and enjoy an hour-long sermon with no interruptions.

As enjoyable as those days were, they also made me somewhat oblivious to the families with small children in the surrounding seats at church. Sure, I noticed if the kids were dressed particularly cute, but the various challenges and labors the mothers (and fathers, too) in those families had already gone through that morning were not much on my radar. I hadn’t yet experienced the daunting “Sunday Morning Mama” test—the test to possess, cultivate, and maintain a joyful spirit on the Sabbath day, regardless of any circumstances that threaten to diminish it.

It All Changed

But just ten months after getting married, I became a mother, and the Sunday mornings I had known and loved for so long changed forever.

Dressing a newborn for church and having to leave the sanctuary to nurse is one thing. However, getting a toddler to finish his breakfast, sit quietly in church, and eat his food during the carry-in meal, I soon learned, is another.

The former is certainly inconvenient at times, but the latter can be downright frustrating. As Little Man grew, the Sunday morning challenges seemed to grow right along with him, and I began to see how easily they became one big temptation to let my fleshly emotions run wild and negatively affect the entire day.

What was supposed to be a day of enjoying my family, seeking and delighting in the Lord, and joyful fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ was instead becoming a day where I was inwardly bracing myself for frustration, discouragement, and a failure to keep my head above the water with a smile on my face.

A bad attitude. Cold tones of voice toward my husband. Mommy-weariness.

This was not what I wanted Sundays to be. Not only was it miserable to be in such a state, but, more importantly, it was not glorifying to the Lord.

Three Things That Have Helped

The Lord was gracious to point out this area of sin in my life, and He continues to patiently refine me, as each week brings with it a new opportunity to lean hard upon His grace and learn how to walk through Sundays with godliness, joy, and humility.

The Lord still has much work to do in me, but here are just three ways I have begun learning to be a joyful Sunday Morning Mama.

1. Take time to prepare.

For some reason, Sunday mornings are often more challenging than others when small children are in the picture. Whether it’s because of a diaper blowout, a last-minute tantrum, or a lost shoe (or all three), the last few minutes before getting out the door can be the hardest to maintain self-control and a focused readiness for corporate worship.

Taking some time to prepare on Saturday has been a tremendous help in allowing those mornings to go smoother. I usually put together a “make-ahead” breakfast (such as baked oatmeal), and then just pop it in the oven Sunday morning. Laying out an outfit for my son, rounding up books for his “Sunday bag,” ironing my husband’s dress pants, and going to bed with a clean kitchen are also small, but effective, helps.

Sometimes Saturdays are more tiring and busy because of this extra preparation. But without a doubt, it absolutely pays off the next morning, and I can go to bed that night anticipating, rather than dreading, the day ahead of me.

2. Set your mind on things above.

More important than practical preparation, however, is the preparation of my own heart. Even apart from any “toddler-oriented” challenges that arise, I have seen how easy it is to give in to an irritable and unpleasant mood for no good reason at all on Sunday mornings. And if this is the state of my heart even before leaving the house, it is likely to go with me into church, making for a miserable day.

Some of the heart preparation begins even the day before, as I evaluate my thoughts and attitudes. Do I despise all the extra work I’m doing in order to prepare for Sunday? Do I anticipate hearing the Word of God preached and how the Lord will teach me through it? Do I look forward to Christ-honoring conversation with others, with hope that God might use me to encourage them? Do I expect the Lord to give me grace and wisdom during the service to train my children, or do I predict the worst?

If possible, getting to bed at a decent time on Saturday night in order to wake up and spend some time with the Lord is a way in which we can lay a right foundation in our ears and minds for the day ahead. We can find strength in God’s Word and commit the cares of the day to Him in prayer—prayer for steadfast joy, love toward our children, a humble heart, and an increased desire to know and enjoy God.

3. Stop comparing.

Finally, one of the things would steal my joy on Sundays is the comparison game. In this season of my life, the comparing doesn’t have much anything to do with what this or that woman is wearing or how perfect her hair is. Instead, it’s a temptation to compare myself as a mother.

I begin to look around and observe the various behaviors of the kids in church, the reactions and attitudes of the mothers, whether or not a particular child is allowed to eat goldfish during the sermon, and the list goes on. Simply put, my sinful flesh is looking for a reason to take pride in myself, a reason to give myself a pat on the back.

Choosing not to compare requires a work of humility in the heart. One way I have found it helpful to cultivate that attitude is by purposefully observing and acknowledging the right, lovely, and godly actions of the other mothers at church, especially in areas of my own weakness. Rather than thinking to myself, Well, at least my kid is sitting better than hers, I can think, The Lord has given her such grace to be joyful with her children. Lord, help me to be more like that woman in this area. Thank You for her good example.

He Will Help Us

Truly, Sundays are to be a day of entering the Lord’s gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise—even for tired and tested mamas. Praise the Lord that in Christ He has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and He’s ever so willing to refine and mature us in this area when we ask Him to!

As we evaluate this area of our lives and bring it before Him, may we anticipate His faithfulness to mold us into joyful Sunday Morning Mamas as we submit to His patient and perfect work in our souls.

Are Sunday mornings difficult for your family? What other suggestions do you have for helping your family (whether it’s young kids or older ones) get out the door and have hearts ready to worship?

About the Author

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson is the author of Laughing at the Days to Come: Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope. She enjoys being a stay-at-home mom to three boys in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Nick.

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