Reset & Refresh: An Encouragement to Read
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT)
Rest is vitally important and it is a good gift of God, whether we think of a good night’s rest, the rhythm of a weekly day of rest, or some extended respite. But we were created to image God in our work too, and work is also a blessing from God. But sin has broken this world and impacts both our rest and our work. All too often in this world of sin and misery we are robbed of real rest and our work yields more frustration than fulfillment. Multiple factors contribute to the stress we experience . . . even the weather! We’re all familiar with the summer doldrums when the heat and humidity sap our energy. One reason we so look forward to vacation is that we imagine getting away from it all will help; and, by God’s grace, it often is a help! But just going somewhere and doing what we want for a time is not the most helpful thing we can do. A better plan is to dig into some practical theology and learn what God has said about things like creation, work, rest, body, and soul.
Over the six week extended time away that we were given I was able to do some reading. (It was especially wonderful for almost two weeks to be unable to access the internet, telephone, or television!) Two books in particular were so beneficial that I would like to pass along something of what I gleaned and encourage you to take some time to read and be blessed yourself.
David Murray, a pastor and professor, dealt with two life-threatening health crises and a near-fatal automobile accident within the span of a little more than a year. The last straw, as it was, involved Deep Vein Thrombosis and multiple pulmonary emboli which forced him to stop and caused him to consider the reality and danger of burnout and breakdowns. In God’s good providence this led to the writing of a book for Christian men called Reset. His wife, Shona, a busy family physician while they lived in Scotland, now a homeschool mother of five, dealt with “the deep hole of depression and anxiety” which, by God’s grace, has given her real-life experience of the necessity of a book like Reset, but for Christian women—thus they teamed up and wrote Refresh.
Both books point out Biblical principles that help us balance our lives better. They share Biblical practices that are fleshed out for us and Biblical patterns we should seek to follow. There are real differences examined in typical causes and results of stress among men and women, so it is useful to read both if we want to understand one another better. Both books are available as audio books and David Murray, with his wonderful Scottish accent reads Reset, so that makes it all the more enjoyable!
Stress is a real problem; Murray quotes a Christianity Today article which reports that “burnout is responsible for 20 percent of all pastoral resignations.” (Murray, David. Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture . Crossway. Kindle Edition.) Christopher Ash in his book Zeal without Burnout relates the results of a Barna survey from 2014 which indicated that “in the USA it is estimated that some 1500 people leave pastoral ministry each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.” (Ash, Christopher. Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice. The Good Book Company. 16. His emphasis.) But depression and anxiety, burnouts and breakdowns are not just problems for pastors; increasingly across generations and vocations these are present concerns. Murray observes: “Every victim of burnout will tell you that unhealthy patterns of living and working that they learned in their youth caused their downfall later in life. And if any group is in danger today, it’s the millennial generation (aged 18–33), whose stress levels are higher than the national average, according to a report by the American Psychological Association. Thirty-nine percent of millennials say their stress has increased in the past year, and 52 percent say stress about work, money, and relationships has kept them awake at night in the past month, with one in five clinically depressed or stressed out and needing medication. (Idem.) The reality of these things should send us to our knees, to God’s Word, and to be more willing to share and bear one another’s burdens.
The burden of both Reset and Refresh is seen in their subtitles: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture and Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands. The secular culture cannot truly help us in any ultimate sense because it does not know God or human beings rightly. We need the Bible to help make sense of who we are and how to live well. Part of that God-revealed understanding is embracing the two truths that we are creatures with real limitations and dependence (see Psalm 103:14), and that the Lord is sovereign and the only Savior (we are neither!). Author and pastor Christopher Ash shares a wonderful little “informal liturgy” he and his wife Carolyn use to remind themselves of these things: “Remember, there is only one Saviour of the world; and it’s not you, and it’s not me.” (Idem., 62.)
That phrase “grace-paced” is extraordinarily important! Wisdom and the Bible help us see that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We must endure to the end and finish the race; we should be aware of the temptation to give up and the danger of aimless running (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). We Christians have been called to run, so we cannot be lazy or refuse to get in the race at all! Yet neither can we ignore our creatureliness and the providences or circumstances that God has sovereignly placed in our lives. Listen to David Murray: “I learned the hard way that pacing a race is one of the most important skills for track athletes to learn. Go too slow and we fail by never winning or fulfilling our potential. Go too fast and we fail by injuring ourselves or running out of energy before the finish line. Finding that perfect pace, that sweet spot between too slow and too fast, is vital for success and longevity as an athlete—and as a Christian. … That’s what successful pace runners do. They are sensitive to significant changes in themselves and in race conditions, and they recalibrate their pace to avoid injury or exhaustion, ensuring a happy and successful finish.” (Idem.)
Both books begin with pointing out 5 “deficits of grace” that both David and Shona have experienced and observed in the lives of those in danger of burnout. But these are not folks who do not know anything about grace! No, these are Christians active in ministry who love the doctrines of grace! However, like all of us in all sorts of areas of life, there tends to be a disconnect between what we believe and how we live. In their introductions, the Murrays address a better way to understand the outworking of God’s grace in our lives. I’ll lay out the terms and ask you what you know about the power of this kind of grace.
- Motivating grace
- Moderating grace
- Multiplying grace
- Releasing grace
- Receiving grace
I hope you are already intrigued enough to pick up a copy of one or both of the books and see what they are talking about!
From that introduction, they go one to give 10 wonderfully Biblical and helpfully practical “repair bays” or “stations” to go through to find the full-of-grace pace of life that we need. Each of these chapters was full of biblically-based wisdom and practical help. I encourage you to take time not just to read the material but to implement it in your life. David and Shona’s real-life stories resonated with my own life in many ways that I didn’t expect. Perhaps you will find the same recognition that this is important as you read or listen to it. The chapter headings will give you a good indication of the direction they point out.
- Reality Check
Each of us will need some correction to the ways we live (if we’re concerned to please God in all we do). Particularly if you—or someone else who cares about you—have noticed some warning signs that your pace of life is unsustainable, then please take a day or two away from your normal activities to read one of these books! And even if you haven’t noticed anything wrong, take time to read one as preventative medicine!
May God’s Grace transform your lives and overflow to the blessing of those around you,