Today I am reviewing Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona & David Murray.
A description of the book from the publisher:
Life can be overwhelming. Sometimes it feels as if everything and everyone demands all of our time, our resources, our energy, and our very lives. Writing to women in the midst of this busy, do-it-all culture, husband-and-wife team Shona and David Murray offer practical tips for living at a more sustainable pace and avoiding exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Sharing personal stories of their own struggles with overwhelming demands, they give counsel on everything from sleep to social media, relationships to recreation, and exercise to eating. This book encourages women to cultivate a healthy approach to life motivated and moderated by Christ’s transforming grace.
As usual, my five point review:
The premise of Refresh focuses on evaluating our lives through various lenses such as rest, relaxation, reduction, etc. Each of the ten chapters begins with the letter R and is called a “station” at the Refresh Gym. If you read the introduction, you’ll note that Refresh is a feminized adaption (by Shona, presumably) of of a book that David Murray wrote for men, Reset. I found the gym analogy a bit cheesy and did wonder how many women that imagery would appeal to. That aside, I would recommend the book. It began with Shona’s story, detailing her journey towards burn out. The trajectory introduced by the book argues that most (Christian) women are somewhere on this spectrum: stressed –> anxious –> overwhelmed –> burned out –> sad –> depressed –> suicidal (p. 24). I would agree with that notion; I think in our culture it is tough to not fit into one of those categories. I wasn’t clear if that trajectory was research based or not, because I would perhaps organize the spectrum differently, but for the sake of this review: I don’t think it matters.
Though I did not find the majority of this book to be “new” information, what I did wholeheartedly appreciate was the balance between psychological/medical research, self-help tips and tricks, and Gospel truth throughout this book. This was particularly poignant in discussions of physical and mental health, areas that the church doesn’t often address.
The Bible … guides us to care for both the body and the soul. The apostle Paul presents his theology of the body in 1 Corinthians 6:9–20. He starts by admitting that the human body has been damaged by sin (vv. 9–10). However, that doesn’t mean we just forget the body. No, Paul says Christ’s redemption is not just for the soul but also for the body. It’s a full-body and a full-soul salvation. “The body is . . . for the Lord,” insists Paul, “and the Lord for the body” (v. 13). He made it, saved it, and maintains an eternal interest in it. (p. 68)
One of the aspects of the book that I did not like was the approach to relaxation. There was great conversation about the Sabbath, but otherwise the application of annual vacations and daily personal times was a bit too privileged, specific, and (in my opinion) did not give room for factors such as family preferences, finances, and circumstances that do not allow for this. For instance, staycations were not encouraged because “being home” and “not doing anything” was not restful enough. I love vacations and I love personal time, but I know many people who logistically and financially cannot make things like that work, so the chapter seemed a bit exclusionary.
The number one thing I appreciated about this book was the recurring theme about vocation and work. This is so rare in Christian books written for women! Again, there was some privileged discussion here–a “choice” to work (not reality for all women, I know). Priorities in the workplace, balancing family and ministry and personal faith and work, and also accepting imperfection are all addressed at length. Other chapters addressed friendship, family matters, raising children in the faith, and our own personal relationships with God.
In general, I found Refresh to be thought provoking and helpful, a good analysis of how we can deal with life in our busy culture in a healthy, Christ-centered manner. The book closed with some thoughts for living the grace-paced life. So encouraging!
But God has taught me that, no, the grace-paced life is not only his will but more honoring to him. For me, to pace myself means less of my efforts and more of God’s grace. I have had to learn to fight hard against unbiblical, false guilt and personal expectations. I have learned to look up to God before looking across to people and ask: “What does God want me to do right now?” The key is to grasp that pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not. It takes faith to believe that and to follow through with it. To live it is in fact a dying to self—a dying to our self-will, our self-sufficiency, and our self image. Have you understood frantic living versus grace-paced living in that way before? (p. 173-174)
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Crossway Blog Review Program for the chance to read this great book!