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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

1929 – The Salvation Army in Crisis – Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

These are a few of my thoughts as I’ve been reading former General John Larrson’s book -1929: A Crisis that Shaped The Salvation Army’s Future [i]  (chapter 8)

As the movement to reform the leadership of The Salvation Army (in the issue of succession to the office of the General) gained momentum, General Bramwell Booth collapsed.  He had a nervous breakdown[ii] - the pressures of leadership piled upon his human frailties and rendered him incapacitated, unable to face the necessary changes and unable to think about anything else. This collapse broke his stride and he never fully recovered.

He was instructed by his doctors to take an extended break in order to rest and to recuperate his strength. There was nothing physically wrong with him. He just needed a healthy way to deal with stress of leading an international organization through a difficult period of transition.

But relax is exactly what Bramwell Booth could never do.

In her biography of her father, Catherin Bramwell Booth wrote of her father’s service during the years 1878 - 1928, “Fifty years of continuous work intervened.  He had furloughs, so called.  They never again included one work-free day.”[iii]

He worked when he was sick.  He worked on his days off.  He had no hobbies, no pass-times.  He worked and worked and worked.  But he could never rest.

We in the Salvation Army often celebrate the unflagging zeal of the early Salvationists.  We look back in awe at the work they accomplished in such a short time.  But at what cost?  Bramwell Booth, as an example of this ceaselessness, ruined his health and left the international Army in a dangerous lurch.  And, what is more, it demonstrates a poor understanding on the Scriptural concept of rest – of Sabbath.

We are instructed by God – commanded even – to rest.  God rested himself. God who created and preserves and governs the universe rested.  Should we presume that God needs us to work without rest?

In a way, it’s also a behavior of arrogance.  The work of God, the spread of the gospel, the expansion of the Kingdom does not hang solely upon the work of any one individual.  God works in many varied ways his will to unfold.  To presume that we cannot stop to rest, that our work is that necessary sets us above God himself. 

You better stop, look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown.
-The Rolling Stones -

[i] Larrson, John 1929: A Crisis that Shaped The Salvation Army’s Future Salvation Books, London England, 2009.
[ii] Page 120
[iii] Quoted on pate 120.

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