Always One More Thing: Alan Fadling’s Advice for the Labouring Leader

written by J CARSON CARRIERE | MARCH 2024

Let’s face it: Christian leaders can get caught up in all that is involved in day-to-day responsibilities. Think about your own typical day, week, or month. Are you repeatedly pushing your rest and refreshment back on your schedule – continually making false promises to yourself:

“I can rest at the end of the day”

“I’ll take a break at lunch”

“I’ll go to bed early”

“I’ll take a breather on the drive between appointments.”

“My vacation is in a few weeks; I’ll rest then.”

Approaching our work this way may give us a sense of purpose and meaning, but it hinders resiliency and will exponentially drain us. You plug onward, constantly contributing to your cause and life soon becomes a treadmill with no “Off” switch.

That’s the trouble many of us face. If rest is relegated to something optional – and not built into our schedule- we risk burnout or leaving our role altogether.The fact is, stuffing your workday with “to-dos” without including scheduled breaks does not produce vitality.

It more often yields opposite effects – making one weaker instead of stronger, tired instead of energetic, despondent instead of uplifted, worldly instead of spiritual.

Is it time to step off the treadmill to rest and be refreshed?

Incorporate rest into your spiritual rhythm!

In his book, An Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling shares our struggle for rest.

“Many of us are perhaps feeling our need for real rest more today than ever before. Getting better sleep, setting aside a day each week not to measure productivity or accomplishment, even guarding some weeks each year to rest deeply—these are things most of us still struggle to do.” (Fadling)

Why do we struggle with rest so much?

Pointing to Jesus’ life, Fadling proposes seven reasons we don’t rest well.

This month we will briefly introduce three of them: the problems with our image of God, our weariness and fatigue, and the numbness/rest problem. (We will cover the rest of the reasons in upcoming blogs over the next few months).

Reason #1: A distorted image of God

“Children learn how to prioritize God when they observe their parents putting Him first. The environment in which we grow up influences the rest of our life. The family dynamic, particularly parental behaviour, impacts our perspective about ourselves, others, and the Lord”. (In Touch Ministries Canada)

Your image of God can be influenced by a lot of things – culture, race, relationships, and history, to name a few. But the most powerful influence is the family we grew up in. Our image of God is often shaped more by our lived experience with our earthly fathers than it is by our theology.

“We may discover that our gut image of God is a God who only gives us work. Especially when it comes to engaging with the important work of God’s kingdom, we might imagine that our only faithful way forward is to work until we drop. There was a saying that leaders I looked up to were fond of proclaiming: “I’d rather burn out than rust out for God.” It sounded quite noble and profoundly virtuous.” (Fadling)

God has revealed all he wants us to know about himself – his nature and character — in Scripture.

So, to understand the nature of God and to clear up any distorted views we might have, it is to Scripture that we must turn. There are many such passages, but on the topic of rest, Fadling points us to Psalm 23.

In the Psalm, David describes God’s provision and care at a personal level – your shepherd who refreshes your soul with rest, leading you to still waters and nurturing green pastures.

God loves his sheep and is concerned for their souls.

Reflect: Do you consider yourself a ruster or a burner?

Might it be time to revitalize your image of God in the language of Psalm 23? Try closing your eyes and seeing yourself in Psalm 23 with the Good Shepherd.

Reason #2: Wearied and Fatigued

How many times have you been so tired, that instead of rest, you seek escape? You lie in bed; your thoughts are racing, and you reach for your phone to check out the latest X feed or Instagram posting, check a few emails.

Or you chase internet rabbit holes, reading memes and watching videos that have no immediate relevance in your life; they are just a convenient and easily accessible place to numb your mind for a while.

But resiliency needs much more than that.

“To do what would actually refresh, renew, or restore us takes some time

and effort. We might give ourselves a chance to slow down enough inside

to read a good book. We might go outside and watch for the creative care

of God around us. We might turn off our devices and settle into a good

conversation with a friend. Good rest requires effort, and when we’re

overtired, the effort can feel like too much for us.” (Fadling)

Fadling again points us to Scripture, this time at God’s call for his people to rest.

The author of Hebrews says there is “a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (4:9) and we should “make every effort to enter that rest” for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His.”

To “make every effort” means to be intentional, and firmly embed the time in your schedule.

Reflect: Take some time to consider what uniquely brings you rest and refreshment physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally, and spiritually.

Do you ever find yourself so tired, that instead of rest, you seek escape? Name one or two of your favourite go-tos for escape.

Reason #3: Numbing instead of resting.

“It’s never been easier to waste time on empty activities. We can turn on

any one of the many streaming services available today, and the autoplay

function will keep us occupied indefinitely. We can open YouTube or

Facebook, and again, autoplay will provide us with video clips that the

platform’s algorithm predicts we’ll find intriguing.” (Fadling)

Fadling calls these “mindless moments of escape” And that’s all they are. It might feel good to escape in a mind-numbing activity, but it’s not real rest and it rarely (if ever) has made us feel refreshed, renewed, restored, or reenergized — words that describe what happens when we rest well. Maybe talk with a friend; go for a walk or a bike ride; listen to music, meditate on a special passage of the Bible, or sit in silence, on a park bench…. But NOT at your desk.

Reflect: Identify your favourite mindless moments of escape.

Identify your favourite ‘mindless moments of escape.’ Choose a few things from your unique list of rest and refreshment activities. Incorporate one or two into your week.

Going Forward

With the difficulties we’ve all experienced over the past four or five years, today more than ever is a good season to schedule some regular downtime with Jesus, our Good Shepherd; to drink from the Living Water and feed on the lush pasture of God’s word and God’s presence.

Reflect: Read Psalm 23 again, asking God how he would like to shepherd you to places of rest and refreshment.


Order Alan’s book – An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest

Listen to Alan’s Podcasts

Visit the Unhurried Living Website

Maybe you’re ready for rest and refreshment, today. Join our upcoming Soul Focus retreat.

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