Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives
Written By Richard A. Swenson
Critiqued by Kathy L. McFarland
Dr. Richard A. Swenson is a Christian author, physician and futurist.He has written The Overload Syndrome, Hurtling toward Oblivion, More Than Meets the Eye, and A Minute of Margin (back cover). His book, Margin, presents the margin cure to overcome the disease of modern-day overload. When cured through the security of margins, the hectic life of overload can be cured of emotional, physical, financial and time loss. The simple margin prescription that excludes hurried lives, is a plan to return time, energy, confidence, and courage to the frantic modern-day lives (back cover).
Dr. Swenson first presents the illness of overload in the first five chapters of his book. Overloads are time management issues that fail to create a margin for the unexpected, with thresholds exceeded past human health.These overloads create a deficit in soul and physical restoration.Those that push past margins and overload their overextended lives, are not doing all things through Christ who strengthens them (Philemon 4:13) if an emphasis is placed on "ALL THINGS” rather than the words "THROUGH CHRIST” (56). An excellent point is made by Dr. Swenson that even Jesus did not heal all of the leapers in Israel (57). Those loyal to their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ accomplish all of their works through Him; but, they do not finish all works in other Christian's path.It would be impossible.Thus, a margin must be created that allows for their share of works to be completed according to God's direction, without extending into the overload places that are responsibilities of others. If God placed limitations on His Son, He certainly will place the same upon His people.
Thresholds, limits and saturation points must be carefully predicted to prevent the overload that causes a collapse. The five environments modern-day people negotiate are the physical, cognitive, social, emotional and spiritual (30). Progress has made the first two powerful tools in most modern-day people's lives.However, overload causes pain, and the social, emotional, and spiritual environments brings great suffering within those that pursue these places.
The second-half of the book (69-214) does an excellent job of identifying the four margins that must be obtained to sustain Christian health; these are emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances. The author presents ways for margins to be restored when they are lost. The readers receive clear-cut problem solving suggestions that seem easily implemented in their lives when the realization that margins are needed in their lives.
Modern-day readers need no convincing; the physical, emotional, time, and financial overloads have crippled the lives of most.Dr. Swenson has part of the cure; but it is tedious to reach, as the first five chapters try to justify why we should take heed.One chapter would have been enough to move the reader forward; expounding the first five chapters in such an over-bloated manner is likely to lose many readers before the second part of the book is reached.
Though the book begins with a generalized audience, with no clear cut identity, by the end his readers connect through their Christian faith to the Christian doctor that knows the symptoms of Margin deficits that lead to pain can be overcome through the elimination of overload through the provisions of Margin that is supported further by Scripture. Self-help Christian books normally begin with Scripture focus; that this progresses from little bits of mention in the first chapters to a focused approach of seeking God's will in the last is confusing.The reader might feel spiritual manipulation as they go from a generalized worldview to a specific focus upon Christian life.
The excellence of Dr. Swenson's recommendations to establish margins in life comes from his common sense approach with ideas that can be easily implemented.The acknowledgement that not all people have others that can physically comfort them, and the addition of pets into lives for those alone gives loners an ability to have margins in their lives also (87).
The suggestions of good sleep and exercise (99-108) to compensate for physical burnout are usually easy options for most people. The reminder that "the clock and Christ are not close friends” (121) drives home the point that it is God's timing, not man's that should be used to accomplish all tasks.If there are margins lacking due to time issues, it is always the fault of people; the Lord makes margins around all of His works (See His creation account in Genesis 1), and does not assign any work without the provisions of margins built in. "Live within your harvest” gives a biblical solution that is not only common sense advise but all stressed throughout the Word of God (141). Harvest is the goal, where the bounty of work rewards the workers, in the margins of life established for that enjoyment by God.
Discontent in life, love, works, and personal accountability comes to every Christian that has ignored the timing and margin setting of the Lord.There are so few workers in this life and God places more and more tasks upon the laborers who are committed to Him to get the jobs done.But, no matter how busy Christians become in doing His works, they can be assured that there are built in margins to every task.
As the author points out, Jesus did not heal every one of all things; He did the tasks God moved Him to complete.He had time for prayer, praise, contemplation, and eating. He could talk with people about an important subject, then discuss with others about something else.There were defined margins even in his conversations.
Dr. Swenson did a magnificent job in presenting cures that could repair the damage of works attempted without appropriate margins established.Obesity, financial ruin, dependence upon self over obedience to God, and lack of important necessities like proper food, sleep, and exercise are measured well by Swenson.
Overall, Dr. Swenson presented both the problems and the cures of marginless living. Modern-day overload is a symptom of people setting the priorities and becoming caught up in the completion of works without regard to the timing of God.When lives are witnessed to be without margins in Christian circles, then it is disobedience to the timing of God that is being displayed.Swenson points to many Scriptures that show God has in-place margins for His workers.
Even Christ was limited in the amount and time spent on His works.It is better to do the things God has assigned, and then enjoy the margins to receive the spiritual, physical, emotional, cognitive and financial health necessary to do another.Dr. Swenson did an excellent job of presenting the cures to this modern-day problem of too much work, and no margins to recover.
Balancing work and play is balancing actions and margins.In final analysis, God is the creator of both works and margins.Dr. Swenson wisely portrays the spiritual reality of this important idea, and offers solutions.Modern day Christians that have ignored God's timing in their lives, and chosen instead to move at their own time, are setting a critical example that will fail to complete worthy works, and lead to their ruin if margins given to believers by God continue to be ignored.
BibliographySwenson, Richard A. M.D. Margin, Restoring Emotional Physical Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives . Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2004.