I didn’t know I was headed for burnout. I just felt exhausted and frustrated. I had taken on more than I should have, filling up my schedule with every conceivable request. I couldn’t say no. I had 18 counseling cases, multiple ministries, weekly teaching, and countless other administrative duties, not to mention all the requirements of being a father and husband. Then we decided to add buying a new home to our lives. It was a season of strain. But in reading David Murray’s latest book, I’ve learned as much about my heart and as my schedule. Reset is the book I read to help others, but found it was relevant for self. This book provides excellent tools for both assessment and a treatment of burnout.
The book invites readers to view themselves as a vehicle in need of a good tune up. So, each chapter is designated as a “Repair Bay,” and focuses on a specific aspect of either assessment or treatment. Murray starts the book in the right place, noting the relationship between burnout and “grace deficits.” He comments that there are common themes found among Christians who burnout. He points to a disconnect between our “theological grace” and our “daily lives” (12). While we believe in grace, burnout often arises because we fail to apply that grace to our daily living. This is an important starting place, otherwise resolving burnout becomes another task to add to the list of an already overly burdened individual.
Repair Bay #1 invites us to do a “reality check.” Murray gives a fantastic assessment tool, inviting readers to explore the physical, mental, emotional, relational, vocational, moral, and spiritual components of their lives. He also invites pastors to look specifically at their pastoral role. In each category readers check for “warning lights” that might indicate a serious problem. Readers assess the content of the warning lights, and then measure how many lights are blinking, how deep the problem goes, and how long the problems have been persistent. It’s a fantastic tool. I would honestly not have categorized myself as feeling burned out. But the more I read the list and the more checks I filled in the more concerned I became.
Repair Bay #2 encourages readers to now analyze this data and seek to assess how you arrived at this moment. What are common causes and contributors to your specific burnout? Murray invites readers to examine their life situation and their lifestyle. Both context and response to context can be major factors in leading to burnout. Reviewing our lives in this manner gives us some key targets for applying change.
The remaining eight repair bays invite readers to begin to address the issues that cultivate burnout. Murray covers a wide array of issues in these chapters. He deals with the significance of good sleep, the value of regular exercise, and the reward of manual labor. He stresses the importance of disconnecting from noise and media, focusing especially on digital detox. He emphasizes our need to ground our true identity in Christ. He encourages us to organize our lives, establishing clear goals and reducing our schedules. He also highlights the role that healthy diets, medications, and pleasurable hobbies should have in our lives. He stresses the importance of Biblical friendships, and finally points us again to the new life we have in the gospel.
This is a tremendous book, full of compelling and practical insights. I read it because as a counselor I am always looking for new tools to share with those I seek to help. To my surprise, however, I needed this book. Those who take the time to read it slowly and apply it wisely will find a wealth of value in it. I will not only be using it in counseling, but I would encourage every pastor to read this book! It’s just that valuable.