Spurgeon’s Sorrows

spurgeons-sorrowsDepression is like walking through pudding. Or at least that is the way I describe it. You are surrounded by things which should be sweet and desirable, like chocolate pudding, or even better, banana pudding. But there is no sweetness. There is no desire. There is only an unending slog through the sweetness without being able to partake of the sweetness yourself. In fact, the sweetness slows you down and hinders you just as if you were walking through a pool of pudding.

And worse yet, due to our societal and cultural stigma regarding depression, a depressed person feels like they must make this slog alone. Thankfully, this is not the case. Zack Eswine has written an incredibly helpful (and mercifully short) book on depression, but with a unique twist. Rather than just examining what depression and attacking the problem head-on,  he instead examines the sources and effects of depression by looking at depression through the lens of the life of the “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon.

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Book Review: Zeal without Burnout

Zeal without Burnout, written by Christopher Ash, is a small book about an important subject: burnout in ministry. In the book, Ash seeks to provide clarification and counsel for pastors who are either burning out or on the track to burning out. The first three chapters provide the author’s own background on the subject and his rationale for writing the book. The meat of the book is found in section entitled “Seven Keys” in which Ash presents seven insights into avoiding burnout or recovering from burnout.

The book’s strength lies in the fact that Ash does give some very sensible advice and insight concerning how to avoid burnout and how to curtail it once you are in it. His advice to make friends inside and outside of your ministry context, get some sleep and Sabbath rest are all very sound and reasonable things and things which modern pastors, and modern people, need to hear. Modern society does not place a premium on rest or friendship (or should I say meaningful friendship).

The book, however, left much to be desired. The overall premises of the chapters were solid, but the practical advice was overall very lacking. The reader is given the vision of what needs to be done, but is not shown the path, which would seem to be an important element, if this book is written to those about to become burned out or are burned out. The vision that Ash lays out in the beginning of the book of wanting to help pastors address and understand burn out and then be able to address burn out in their lives seems only half fulfilled.

I also thought that Ash missed a golden opportunity to address the particular problems faced by bivocational pastors and burn out. It would seem that these pastors would be particularly vulnerable to burn out, yet Ash does not address this group. Now I am a bit biased (I am a bivocational pastor), but the issue of burn out seems so pertinent to the bivocational ministry that I am surprised Ash did not address it.