Several years ago a family moved next door to us. When their previous house didn't sell as quickly as they wanted, it was "the world's worst nightmare." When the contractor they had hired to put the foundation in was late, it was "the world's worst nightmare." When rain slowed down the landscaper, it was the "the world's worst nightmare."
In contrast, a friend who has suffered from Crohn's Disease for over twenty years recently wrote, excited about what God has been doing in her life in spite of surgeries last year. She is optimistic about the year ahead in spite of more surgeries planned.
What is the difference between these two people? Gordon MacDonald would call it "resilience" in A Resilient Life. He calls it perseverance in first century Christians. "Resilience for first-generation Christians had a lot to do with real suffering. Resilience for us has, in most cases, more to do with lasting and thriving in the spiritual way" (p. 9).
MacDonald uses the example of his track coach from Stony Brook School, Marvin W. Goldberg, and the theme of racing to carry the lessons of building an enduring Christian life. He divides the book into five sections on resilient people and breaks each into several chapters, each about some character trait that builds resilience. Replete with anecdotes, quotations, and references to the Bible, MacDonald thoughtfully encourages his readers to develop a character with the spiritual stamina to complete the race. This strikes me as a book written with prayerful thought. MacDonald does not gloss over his faults or problems, but makes himself open and vulnerable to the reader.
Occasionally MacDonald's language smacks of the shallowness of much of evangelical Christianity, such as when he tells of the price paid by the early Christian who had "organized his life around Jesus" (p. 8) or the description of "sins--the issues of his past" (p. 116). However, these are intermittent. Most of the book is engrossing. At times, MacDonald's insights startle in their simplicity and clarity, such as his description of Solomon's wisdom in the kingdom's matters and foolishness in his own.
This book, the first I've read by MacDonald, was a pleasant and inspiring surprise. Valuable to readers of any age, it would be a great book for young people, in particular, to take to heart. However, MacDonald, who has become a mentor to other pastors, offers much for those of us entering the second half of our lives, reminding us that our most important contributions in life may be yet to come. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
At a young age, Gordon MacDonald recognized that he had inherited a “quitter’s gene,” and because of this—and an influential track coach—he began a lifelong quest for answers. “Why,” he had to ask, “do some people finish what they start, persevere in moments of adversity, push themselves in the direction of their potential, and often make their greatest contributions in the latter half of life? Why do others expect to retire from life when they reach their senior years?” The key element in those who don’t quit is resilience. Those who have it, MacDonald insists, have gathered all the lessons from life—successes and failures—to build a foundation of strength and character, preparing them to face anything.
Using examples from the Bible, from his own life, and from the lives of contemporary people, MacDonald identifies the characteristics of resilience, leading readers through the self-assessment needed to develop them. The journey is demanding and humbling, he reminds us, but the rewards of living well are immeasurable.