Taming the To-Do List: Rest for Weary Leaders

On our way to another meeting, we quickly glance down at our Wunderlist or reminder app to check what's next. Email, call, meet, decide, and delegate are all prompts that can fuel feelings of anxiety and dread. These tasks are marked by the urgent red flag of the fear of failure and the fear of man. Overwhelmed we recognize that in fact our to-do list is actually a cannot-do list.

But Jesus offers a superior type of to-do list that relieves the weary soul:

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:28–29).

To-Do #1: Come

The invitation to come stands in stark contrast to these duties. Come exhausted, wounded, weary, and discouraged. Come, sin-sick and struggling leader. Come with your trials, struggles, and conflicts with others. Come now, and more importantly come to Him. The hymn writer Joseph Hart wrote in "Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy":

Come ye weary, heavy laden.
Lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all.

If Jesus already knows we are weary and heavy laden, then why don't we come? Excuses, justifications, and the tyranny of the urgent are barricades that block us from coming. Matthew 11:28–29 paints a pilgrim portrait. The pilgrim slumps as her strengths are reduced with each new task, every investment in a life or small step forward. Sin, shame, guilt, and pride are also heavy weights that keep us away.

It is as we lay our burdens at the throne of grace that our hands are then open and able to receive the gift. The Giver of all good gifts gives us the gift of rest. Rest is more than a good Sunday afternoon nap. Deep rest holds the promise of shalom—peace with God, peace with others, and peace within. It is an oasis brimming with spiritual refreshment, invigorating grace, and restoration for your soul.

To-Do #2: Yoke

Yoking is the moment of a leader's greatest freedom. As we rest in Him, we are free to surrender our to-do lists, agendas, and craving to control. By joining ourselves to Christ, we submit our will to be aligned with His.

A yoke is not a picture of bondage or burden. Rather it is an instrument of blessing to be hitched to the One who is able to accomplish perfection and to achieve the impossible. Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light because of His perfect obedience applied to us at the cross. He carried the burden that we were never meant to carry. As we join with Jesus, leadership becomes light, because in reality everything is ultimately being supported and sustained by Him.

To-Do #3: Learn

As leaders, we are called to be lifelong learners. There are always new concepts to explore and skill sets to sharpen. Christ Himself is the core of our curriculum. We are called to learn from Him.

In the school of Christ, leaders often learn the hardest lessons. Self-sufficiency is a test you will never pass. It is a path that leads to loneliness, despair, and spiritual deadness. Meekness and humility are the receptive postures of a lifelong learner. These virtues are the crossroads where Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that His power is perfected and His grace is always sufficient.

For almost all of us, there will always be more tasks than hours in the day. But the next time you survey your list, rather than be overwhelmed or anxious, choose to do something different. Write your real to-do tasks at the top—come, yoke, and learn—and ask God to give you rest for a weary soul.


About the Author

Karen Hodge

Karen Hodge serves as the Coordinator for PCA Women’s Ministry, where she seeks to connect women and churches to one another and to sound resources. She is having the time of her life serving alongside her husband, pastor and best friend Chris, at Village Seven Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs. Chris and Karen have two adult children, Anna Grace Botka and Haddon Hodge. She is the host of the enCourage podcast, and along with Susan Hunt, authored Transformed: Life-taker to Life-giver and Life-giving Leadership.