- Paperback: 124 pages
- Publisher: Victory House (July 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0932081177
- ISBN-13: 978-0932081179
- Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,001,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Wounded Warriors: Surviving Seasons of Stress
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is now out of print and has been released under a new title with revised content. It is now called "Burnout: Renewal in the Wilderness." While "Wounded Warrior" was written primarily to the person burned out from Christian ministry, "Burnout" has been revised and expaned to encompass a more general audience, burned out from a multitude of stressors - not just ministry. My review here will focus on "Wounded Warrior", but I wanted the reader to be aware that a newer title dealing with the same subject matter from the same author was available.
"Wounded Warrior" chronicles the profound burnout experience of the author, a pastor in the midst of building a new church and a new congregation. He explains the three progressive stages of burnout, the physical/emotional/spiritual/mental aspects of each stage, what do to about it, and perhaps most importantly, what NOT to do about it. It is a very important book for those suffering from burnout, but equally important for those who need to minister to such people. Invariably, most people treat burnout victims in the same way as Job's friends - well meaning but ultimately offering bad counsel based on flawed assumptions.
This book, along with several other texts (most notably "Adrenaline and Stress" by Archibald Hart and "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Unmasked" by Gerald Poesnecker) were godsends for me since, as of this writing, I am in the midst of recovering from burnout (In my case, the burnout was so severe that I had to go on medical disability and take an extended leave of absence from my job). The books above have been indispensable in helping me make sense of not only what is happening to me, but why it is happening as well. I particularly recommend this book because it is the only one of the three that adequately addresses the SPIRITUAL aspect of what is happening to the burnout victim.
Quite frankly, I think Christians often have a harder time coping with "burnout" because we tend to feel that as long as the stresses we undergo are in the pursuit of something noble, such as helping raising a child, ministering to others, etc. we are somehow exempt and that God will supernaturally "bear us up on eagle's wings" to continually go above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of accepting and living within our physical limitations, we press ourselves ever harder until one day the rope snaps and unravels, seemingly occurring out of the blue. "Wounded Warrior" along with the other books mentioned help us understand that our problems did not occur "out of nowhere." They can be reversed and full recovery is possible, but the recovery time is usually measured in months or years - not days - and almost never in our "preferred" Christian method of an instant, miraculous healing.
This is an extremely powerful book because people who have not undergone burnout simply cannot understand it. Had I not undergone it, I can assure you I would not understand it, and would be prone to judge those in the midst of it as "lazy" or "weak minded" or simply "wimps." To have someone with the spiritual depth and maturity of Sanders write something on the topic, combined with his personal experience, puts this book in a category by itself. It is concise - not some lengthy psychological treatise - and brevity is exactly what the burnout victim needs in this season of their life. They need answers and they will find them here. While the book is written primarily to those in ministry suffering from burnout, it is by no means limited to such people. It is equally applicable to housewives, business professionals, single parents, or anyone else. The author addresses this quite directly in his preface to the book and explains why he chose to leave the book as it was rather than revise the verbiage to encompass a more generic audience. Rest assured that the message itself is generic. If you are not in full- or part-time ministry, this book is still for you.
NOTE: The remainder of this review does not directly pertain to the book, but rather provides additional information on the topic of burnout based on my personal experience.
There is a lot of confusion about the term "burnout" and I think it is worthwhile to discuss the term in the context of how it is used in this book versus the rather flippant, conversational usage to denote little more than boredom and wanting a change of pace or scenery. Personally, I don't like to use the word "burnout" because it tends to conjure up images of people that are otherwise physically and mentally capable, but simply lack motivation - they just can't face another day of the same-old same-old. Such a condition would be better termed "motivational deficit" or something similar ... but it is not burnout in the true sense of the word. Everyone gets tired, everyone feels like staying in bed some days, everyone gets depressed occasionally. Burnout is very different. It is a profound, lingering state of severe fatigue in which the afflicted person is very aware something is seriously wrong, often suspecting some dread degenerative disease such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or lupus. However, repeated medical tests and exams generally find the person without any measurable anomalies, with perhaps the vague advice from doctors that "it's just stress." To the afflicted person, this tends to sound like a junk diagnosis because they find it impossible to believe that stress could render their body so profoundly broken, dysfunctional, and aching.
True burnout - as used in this book - is the body's response to severe, repetitive stress, usually over a period of years (not days or months) where eventually the body is depleted of its chemical coping mechanisms...most notably the hormones manufactured by the adrenal glands. It is not unlike the mechanical stress on a piece of metal constantly deflecting. Eventually it weakens and breaks. The deflections don't necessarily have to be large...just repetitive and unending. This is where much of the confusion occurs. Our bodies are made to endure period of severe stress (known as acute stress). As long as the acute stress is of finite duration, the stress resolves and the body has adequate time to recover. However, when CHRONIC stress occurs, it is of an unending, never-resolved sort. The body is essentially making small (or large) withdrawls from its energy "bank account" without offsetting deposits of equal or greater amounts. It is just a matter of time before the body is "overdrawn" and burnout manifests itself.
The ensuing damage can be catastrophic, but unlike the piece of metal in our example, thankfully not permanent. While each person is different, burnout in the true sense of the word will manifest itself not just mentally, emotionally, and spiritually...but PHYSICALLY as well. I was always under the impression that people undergoing "burnout" or a "nervous breakdown" would simply collapse into some kind of babbling, incoherent crying jag from which they couldn't recover...perhaps with some kind of blank, catatonic stare. I mistakenly assumed that burnout is a primarily mental condition that only those with "weak constitutions" would succumb to. How wrong I was.
Conventional medicine will generally refer to the latter stages of burnout as "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" (even though they treat this as a mystery disease of unknown origin, it is really just the body's response to long-term stress from which it cannot adequately recover.) Alternative medicine tends to use different terminology, such as "adrenal fatigue" or "adrenal exhaustion." However, regardless of the nomenclature, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and adrenal exhaustion are one and the same.
The person suffering from true burnout will experience one or more of the following: unexplained aches and pains, trembling, abnormal weakness, debilitating fatigue for which seemingly no amount of rest is enough, insomnia, tingling and numbness of extremeties, headaches, bowel and bladder problems (diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel), difficulty concentrating, excessive recovery time from even moderate exertion, and an increasing inability to handle any amount of stress or frustration, no matter how small.
When you consider the pressures on people in ministry, particularly those in counseling settings where people are constantly making emotional, spiritual, and physical demands, it is often just a matter of time before the pastor, counselor, or other spiritual leader succumbs to burnout in one degree or another. The problem is that most people in burnout do not understand what is happening to them. They have been so used to living on high levels of adrenaline to cope with the stress, that their bodies and psyches have become accustomed to it. If you were to ask them whether they were stressed, the vast majority would deny it. Like the proverbial frog in the pan of slowly heating water, they don't realize they're in trouble until the water is at a full boil.
Unfortunately, the body cannot adapt indefinitely, and as it begins to crash, the burnout victim will begin to experience strange physical maladies and sensations that cannot be explained. What they desperately need is rest and an extended withdrawal from all the stressors, but they often press in more diligently, thinking they can power their way through. So begins a vicious downward spiral.
As a Christian, very strange things will begin to happen spiritually as well - things that you will be at a loss to explain. It will become increasingly difficult to pray. Instead of finding comfort in the Bible and in prayer, it will increasingly become a place in which you feel condemnation and pressure to perform. You will begin to feel that God has deceived you, making promises and whispering encouragements to your heart only to smash them later as part of some sadistic "test" of your devotion. If you are honest with God emotionally, you will begin to feel an immense sense of rage - of being intentionally duped and cheated. You may even swear at Him for being such a seemingly sadistic "father" to His children. Emotionally you begin to disintegrate, and the smallest stimulus can reduce you to tears. Silly, sappy things such as a cartoon or TV drama can elicit tears where before they would have seemed almost ridiculous.
"Wounded Warrior" is a particularly powerful book because it deals with all of these issues head-on, instead of the syrupy, over-spiritualized platitudes that you are likely to get elsewhere. It is written by someone who has walked this same path of burning coals that you may now be walking, and offers the hope that only someone who has come out the other side intact can offer.