Review of Richard Swenson's In Search of Balance: Keys to A Stable Life(Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010). 232 pages.
If you are one of those people with both clear boundaries in life and the necessary tenacity to protect those boundaries, you probably don't need to read this book. But if you're like most of us, i.e, trying to keep up with the fast-paced nature of the modern world yet finding yourself further and further behind every day, then Swenson may be the right guide to help you out. Paying appropriate attention to both theory and practice, the author dedicates the first half of the book to explain why it is so hard to strike an appropriate balance in our lives today before giving suggestions as to how one might go about striking such a balance. Even the chapters containing suggestions give plenty of theory to back up each piece of advice so that you know exactly why you ought to try what he recommends. And the author is under no illusion that someone should try to implement all 60 of his suggestions; he trusts that you will make those changes that will be most effective at bringing balance to your life. Swenson is a very gifted communicator, bringing in humor, medical expertise and personal example at just the right moments. He is also very good at integrating the spiritual with the practical. Here is what he says about Philippians 4:13, a verse many ministers use to justify a life of imbalance.
“A verse in Philippians says, 'I can do everything through him who gives me strength.' This is a favorite verse for many, and I love it as well. It is completely true, reliable, and a great comfort. But it doesn't mean what some have taken it to mean. When Paul said, “I can do everything' (other translations read, 'I can do all things'), he did not mean that we can walk across the Atlantic Ocean or swim across the Pacific. We can't go a year without eating. We can't ignore sleep and stay healthy, out-shop our income and remain solvent, or work twenty hours a day an still love our families.” Everything God has given us to do, He will also give us the strength to do it. In all things we are to be dependent on His power rather than our own. Then He will give us the power to do His will.”
If you haven't read Swenson's previous book, Margin, don't worry. While balance and margin are interrelated terms, Swenson spends enough time at the beginning of In Search of Balance explaining the margin concept that you can proceed with his development of the balance idea. In short, margin has to do with the capacity we have for all of the things in our lives while balance has to do with making sure we are prioritizing the right things. I've read the book and highly recommend it to anyone struggling to achieve balance in their life. Now it's time for me to put some of his suggestions into practice.