JohnSWilson3 Blog

Book Review of “Margin” by Dr. Richard A. Swenson
July 3, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is a book summary I completed on “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” back in September 2000. This obviously is over a decade old when I wrote it so take it in that light. While it does come from a counseling and an institutional church background it still provides some valuable advice to help those who struggle emotionally, physically, financially, and with time management. You may not necessarily agree with his premise but given today’s society it is definitely worth considering. A critical element that I think he overlooks is the New Testament principle of living by Christ’s life in a shared life community with those who are in Christ. Perhaps many in the church today struggle with these issues because of the lack of this lost art of the body of Christ. An excellent little book and highly recommend it. I still reflect back on these principles even to this day.

Dr. Richard A. Swenson, in his book MARGIN, provides the reader with practical application based on biblical truth in how individuals can gain margin in life in order to overcome the pain caused by progress. Dr. Swenson’s premise is that progress has been one of the major causes for the wrecked lives of humanity in America noted by its subsequent problems, stress, and overload in the lives of people socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Part of the problem is that although progress is considered the way to bring happiness at the same time, because of humanity’s falleness and sin nature, produces a more powerful evil, leaving lives emotionally drained, physically unfit, overworked, and burdened with debt. Like a prophet, Dr. Swenson, provides the keys to restoring life and relationships through regaining margin to prevent the continuing downward spiral of relationships in today’s society.

Margin “grants freedom and permits rest” and “is the opposite of overload.” Because of the lack of margin in today’s society all scriptural relational life has become worse such as marriage, parenting, social-support systems, church commitment, church unity, etc. People are drained emotionally by lives that are stressful, alone, and exhausted in spirit. Although there are “no quick fixes” emotional margin requires the cultivation of healthy supporting relationships, giving of oneself, positive emotional releases, freedom to say no, purpose in life, thankfulness and practicing grace, faith, hope, and love. People are drained physically by the lives that are “overfed, underactive, and sleep-deprived” due to poor “lifestyle choices.” Margin gives stronger physical reserves to “resist the ravages of stress.” People must accept and take personal responsibility to change their life-style, regain emotional margin, and change any habit disorders. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise must be valued. Peoples time are drained by the lives that are fixated on time leaving them “wheezing and worn out.” Dr. Swenson points out that “our time should all be God’s time directed by Him and used for His purposes.” Margin in time is used for physical work, “for conversing, for serving, for resting, and for praying.” Time margin is a legitimate requirement from God “who exalts faithfulness over productivity, rest over speed, and availability over schedulability.” Finally, people are drained financially by the “universal indebtedness” of our society because of “living beyond our means.” Margin allows us “to serve the purposes of God” and prevents “nervousness, discontent, and greed.” More money is not margin but is being able to do with out it, giving it away, and meeting the daily necessities of life so that money glorifies God and blesses.

Support for margin is gained by living a life of contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest which builds health in peoples lives. Each are frowned upon by today’s society and is the reason why so many lives are without margin. Contentment facilitates simplicity, reducing complexity, and finds its example in Christ’s justness, mercy, and humility. Balanced living is a matter of “partitioning our time” and is “priority thinking” where God is central and subtracts anything that creates imbalance. Rest is a command from God and is needed in the three areas of physical, emotional, and spiritual and occurs only when we humble ourselves and surrender to Christ’s rest.

Dr. Swenson concludes stating that God made human beings relational and when progress ceases to support the relational nature of the person pain is the result. Pain helps people see the need for margin in restoring healthy relationships both to God, ourselves, and to others. It is the Great Commandment and found in the “one concept: love.” People must control progress instead of letting it steam roll our lives because “the road to health, the path to blessing…is the way of relationship.”



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