Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Grand Paradox

I just finished reading the book The Grand Paradox by Ken Wytsma. I met Ken back in 2011 at the first Justice Conference that he founded in Bend, OR. He has been one of my favorite speakers since then and I was so excited to read his most recent book. I have really enjoyed both of his books (his first book is titled, Pursuing Justice), but this one hit really deep. I had no idea that God would help bring peace and truth to my own struggle with faith that I dealt with for over three years recently.

The subtitle of the book is, "The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith". Ken does a great job of diving into these issues and approaching the topics with openness and Biblical truth. I love that there he shares raw honesty and not cliche type answers and approaches to life. He hits us hard with the topics of love, justice, faith and doubt and brings to the front the hard teachings of Jesus that we are called to live by. 

"The just will live by faith” simply states the obvious: that if I live outside of myself, if I live to give and serve, if I think of others as being as important as myself, if I live for justice—what ought to be—I have to trust that somehow I am going to be taken care of. I have to believe that it truly is better to give than receive, and that God really does watch over and sustain the just. This is not to say that God’s will for our individual lives is of supreme importance, much less that obedience to His call will mean that He preserves us from sickness, suffering, or even death. But we can be assured that only as we take our rightful place in His master plan can we find the path to all the blessing He has in store for us." p. 53-54

I love the challenges that Ken places before us in how we should live our lives as followers of Christ and pursue a just life. It is convicting and necessary for all of us. I try to live this out daily in my own life. It is a constant struggle though and I love the quote in this book, "We want to write God into our story; but God prefers writing us into His." Isn't that the daily battle? My goal is always to be a part of His story, but whenever I don't stay focused on His word and the truths of Jesus, I fail. If I am being honest, I have to admit that often I would prefer God to come into my story and my plans rather than fitting into His. 

A different area that this book addresses is our conflict with faith and doubt. This is what I most needed to hear at this point in my life. The last 4 years have included some huge peaks and valleys in my walk with God. Our family had several very difficult things hit us, but the largest struggle in my life and faith was my 15 year old son's chronic illness that kept him out of school for about 3 years, in bed almost every day, without his brain or body functioning normally. Our life literally stopped. I blogged a lot during this time and was really open with my struggles with God, faith, anger, doubt, fear, isolation and so much more. When I decided that I wanted to blog about this book I realized that I really had not been writing much in the past year (my son has recovered about 90% during this past year as well). I looked back at some of my posts and realized through my writings that the times I was struggling the most and questioning God, He was continually showing me He was there and slowly deepening my faith. Not that my writings come anywhere near to the Psalms, but relate to them in that I was crying out to God and had so much to write and pour out from the depths of my heart.  I had nothing but God to turn to in those hardest times, and through the anger, doubt and fear, God continued to show signs of His closeness to me. Sometimes I would see it, and sometimes I would not. 
 "Throughout Scripture, God never challenges whether doubt should exist. It is the one point of unity between us and God - the recognition that we struggle with faith, belief and trust. Where we differ from God is what we think should follow doubt. We think the burden rests on God to erase our doubt. God knows that the burden rests on us to continue to trust and wait on Him, even in our doubt." p. 76

Reading this book and quotes like the one above and below have helped me to embrace those times of doubt and struggle because as I look back on the past 4 years, I think I was actually closer to God during some of my darkest hours, than I may be am now in a life of busyness, stress, work and family activities. It is so freeing to read about how I can embrace my doubt because God used it to bring me into a closer relationship and understanding of Him. I also know that there will be more doubt, fear and anger in my life and this will help guide me through future times. I am so thankful for this book and for how it has helped me view my past doubt, grow in my faith and realize where I need to make changes to put God back at the top of my life. 
Faith means holding these two things in tension: the goodness of God and our circumstances that scream out to the contrary. We can be honest with our doubts while leaning with trust into the arms of the God who holds us through our grief. That is the paradox of faith. It does not seem possible that a good God can allow bad things to happen to us. But if we can lean into His goodness and keep moving forward, we’ll find Him on the other side of our doubts.
The story of our faith does not end when we doubt. Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the remedy to doubt.
Doubt is only the beginning. It is in our doubt that we begin to truly find faith.
Only a faith that has been doubted can be confirmed.
Only a life that has been risked can be redeemed.
Only a God who has been trusted can prove Himself trustworthy.
You can pick up a copy of Ken's new book here on Amazon. I also highly recommend his book, Pursuing Justice which is also on Amazon.

Formal Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Ken Wytsma/Thomas Nelson Publishing for writing about this book.

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