Spiritual Exhaustion and Spiritual Vacations: Admitting You’re Tired of Ministry Efforts

When I was younger, and even now, I hated doing yard work. I don’t like getting sweaty or dirty, and no one really wants to spend multiple hours in the hot sun picking up sticks or raking leaves or mowing the lawn. Every now and then it might be fun, but the end result is not something I cherish.

But as a man, it’s my responsibility to pursue that and to take care of my land. Whenever I get a house of my own, if God blesses me with that, it will be my job to maintain it.

However, I think the person that spends hundreds of hours a year working on their yard might be missing something. I never want to get so obsessed with keeping my house and land pristine that I forget to rest and forget to focus on restoring myself.

This Sunday, I felt exhausted. Just flat-out worn out. I left church and I was spiritually drained. I didn’t want to read the Bible, I didn’t want to have a spiritual conversation, I just wanted to chill. I didn’t want to do anything related to church.

I’ll be real with you: I was tired of pouring myself out into ministry. I had spent most of last week doing VBS with the youth group at my church. I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday School class for men this whole summer, writing each lesson the week before I teach it for the most part. I’ve been helping out with the youth group throughout the summer each Sunday and Wednesday. I’m also part of the praise team at my church, with practices every Wednesday night before youth group meets.

(NOTE: I really hope you’re not seeing this as me attempting to make myself look awesome by listing all the ministry things I’m doing. I admit that pride is in my heart sometimes, but this is not one of those occasions, I promise.)

I think I hit my breaking point last Sunday. So I decided to take this week off, in a way. I needed to rest. I played some XBOX on Monday night, got some reading done, took a day off work yesterday to help a friend prepare for a move, simply try to rest.

One of the common themes when people speak to my generation of evangelical Christians is getting involved in the local church body. Join a small group. Find a “target ministry,” an area where you can serve that relates to your stage of life/interests/passions/job/age group/etc. “Be invested” is the cry I heard.

One of the possible side-effects of this attitude is something I’m calling “spiritual exhaustion.” People take vacations from work when they’re feeling worn out from their jobs. They get a weekend away to relax, to recuperate, to prepare for a big week ahead, etc. I believe that it’s more than OK to take a spiritual vacation every once in a while, and I needed it this week.

The sign that you need a spiritual vacation can sometimes be hard to spot, but it can come at you all of a sudden. Basically, you’re tired of going to church. You know you should and you know you need to, but you just don’t want to. You’re tired of investing yourself, most of the time because you’ve done so much with little investment back into yourself. Not everyone needs a spiritual vacation, and I understand that it could be really easy to find an excuse to take one.

A spiritual vacation is not an excuse to sin (Romans 6:1) or an excuse to escape community for a long time. But I think it’s OK for you to take a week off of church activities, even a Sunday morning. Sometimes logistics or circumstances don’t allow you to, but it is more than OK to take a Sunday off because you need to rest! Following Jesus doesn’t mean you go to church every Sunday. It’s so much more than that.

Of course, if your spiritual exhaustion becomes a pattern that’s consistent and you’re always taking weeks off of church, there might need to be a period where you examine your motives behind your vacation.

I simply want to say this: don’t be afraid to take a step back. It’s not a bad thing to miss a week or two of church because you’re simply just tired of it. Use that time to rejuvenate your thought life when the feelings get you down. This week has been fantastic, as I said before. It’s been relaxing, it’s been fun, and as I’m preparing for this next week of ministry, I’ve been refreshed and ready to tackle what’s ahead of me, which is a lot this next Sunday.

I don’t want this used as an excuse to step out of ministry duties because you just don’t want to do anything. Not the point. But if you’re legitimately tired, consider the example of Jesus, who would often disappear to pray and spend time with His Father during brief seasons of His ministry.

It’s no good to wear yourself out, because then you’ll have nothing to give.

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