As a wife, mother, and former medical doctor who has experienced stress, anxiety, and depression, Shona Murray writes Refresh in a way that speaks to women in all seasons of life. Murray and her husband David readily acknowledge the demands that work, family, home life, school, and church ministry place on our lives, and they offer an alternative to the hurried and overwhelmed state of being that most of us are in. They suggest embracing a “grace-paced life,” one that is constantly refreshed by wells of divine grace. Murray recommends that we shift our focus away from the endless demands and turn toward a God-given grace focus, one that considers gratitude for God’s gift of Christ as our motivation for all we do. With gratitude for the gift of Jesus as our motivator, we can face our responsibilities with hearts that are resting in God’s favor and not striving for perfection. We can wait in peace to see the Lord multiply our efforts instead of endlessly striving as we submit control of our lives to God and joyfully receive His good gifts of rest, sleep, exercise, family, friends, and fellowship.
The Murrays walk their readers through different stops or “stations” in what they call Refresh Gym, systematically exploring God-given solutions to the almost universal problem of overwhelmed and unsustainable living. This exercise is meant to help identify personal weaknesses so we can focus on the areas that need attention. After a brief discussion of various warning signs (physical, mental, emotional, and so on), there are pointers for evaluating the severity of the warning signs followed by individual chapters or “stops” on each station.
The Murrays suggest that people should look back to reevaluate how they got where they are. As we rewind the tape, we can see with the clarity of hindsight what went wrong. They undergird everything in this station with a practical theology of human limitations. While acknowledging temporary and seasonal demands to push our limitations, they wisely advise their readers to accept universal God-given limitations and the human body’s need for nourishment, rest, and sleep. Though we tend to view these limits as barriers to be pushed through, a grace-paced life views them as divine gifts that point us to our need for the Lord. The opening chapters (“Reality Check” and “Replay”) lay the foundation for the practical advice that follows. The next seven chapters/stations in Refresh Gym (“Rest,” “Re-Create,” “Relax,” “Rethink,” “Reduce,” “Refuel,” and “Relate”) offer helpful, practical, and biblical advice for turning from the frantic pace of life to the grace-paced way of life. By addressing these potential pitfalls individually, readers are able to zero in on their own problem areas. Murray offers helpful, doable advice for finding pockets of rest in vulnerable areas: self-discipline, media/social media overuse, physical exercise, and even napping. The “Re-Create” station addresses physical exercise in more detail, while the “Relax” station addresses the need for refreshment and offers practical advice for how to truly “[b]e still and know that [He] is God.” Ideas such as achieving daily refreshment by limiting notifications and social media check-ins , spending time with the Lord before doing anything else, or simply finding a place to find rest for the mind are helpful. Tips for annual and seasonal refreshment round out this chapter. The “Rethink” station addresses “false identities and their impact upon us.” Murray’s strategy is to ask the reader to quickly answer the question, “Who am I?” and then walk through an eight-step process of rebuilding that identity biblically by “reordering priorities, expanding incompletes, filling in gaps, prosecuting falsehoods, adding balance, accepting change, and reframing failure.” With an understanding of true identity in mind, the reader is then ready for Station 7: “Reduce.” In this station, readers are challenged to lead a “Well-Planned Life.” Murray pointedly says, “I believe every Christian should build on the firm base of a Well-Planned Life. No Christian should be just a victim of events, a helpless cork tossed to and fro on the ever-changing ocean of circumstances and other people’s expectations.” The clear focus of this station is to have purpose, to plan a path toward that purpose, and to prune those things that hinder the journey. The “Refuel” station delves into areas of nutrition, diet, and medications, and the “Relate” station addresses relationships with the Lord, family, and friends. In the tenth and final station, “Resurrection,” Murray adeptly brings her thesis to the concluding point that “pacing ourselves is biblical, whereas living the fast, frantic life is not.” As in the resurrection, all things are made new, so now lives can be renewed by embracing the grace-paced life.
Donna Hull is executive assistant to Pastor Brennan Coughlin and the leader of CrossPoint Women at Fellowship CrossPoint Church in Chesterfield, New Jersey.