A Resilient Life

If I had the money, I’d put this book into the hands of just about everyone I know. A Resilient Life: You Can Move Ahead No Matter What by Gordon MacDonald is a book that speaks gently yet firmly into so many areas of life. It gives caring rebuke when needed but overall provides incredible hope. While it spoke to me throughout my reading, I kept thinking how this book would be helpful for so many others.

I read A Resilient Life over a period of about two weeks but I figure I’ll spend the rest of my life tapping into its wisdom as I seek to live my own resilient life. MacDonald talks about inheriting a ‘quitter’s gene’, a natural inclination to give up when the going gets tough. I reckon we all have some of that gene and so a book that helps us to overcome it to live a life of honour is a welcome addition to any bookshelf.

Gordon MacDonald has been a pastor and author for more than forty years. A former chairman of World Relief, he presently serves as editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. His most recent books include Who Stole My Church, A Resilient Life, and Ordering Your Private World. MacDonald can often be found hiking the mountains of New England or Switzerland with his wife, Gail, or their five grandchildren.

Our Best Years are Still Ahead

In a society that values the new, young and latest, MacDonald is keen to remind us that the second half of life can be the time that our lives make the most impact. That’s not to say that this book is only for those of middle age and beyond. While I appreciate everything in the book for the stage of life I’m now at, I so wish I could have thought through a lot of the ideas he presents when I was younger. The book gives hope for those of us in our forties and older but provides valuable insights for younger people as they begin to carve out the shape of their lives.

Finishing Well

A major theme of the book is ‘finishing well’. History is littered with stories of people who started life well but who fell along the way and came to the end of their lives full of regret. There is much we can do right now to set ourselves up to finish the race of life well. If you think you’ve already messed up your chances of living out a resilient life, MacDonald will be quick to remind you that there is healing and a way forward. He has experienced moral failure but has found his way back to make his life count for something far bigger than himself. His message is that you can too.


The book recommends healthy self-assesment, not the kind that becomes morbid introspection, as well as talking about self-mastery. Self-mastery or self-control is absolutely necessary if we are to live a resilient life. It’s no wonder that the apostle Paul talks about training as an athlete for the Christian life. We need to work on creating a resilient life. It doesn’t just come from wishing or from reading a few good books. It’s a practical, daily exercise.

A Happy Few

As you get deeper into the book you find that MacDonald has a lot to say about cultivating a ‘happy few’. The concept is that of developing deep friendships with a small group of people; the kind of friendship that means that someone is there for you no matter what. He talks of a closeness that allows those people to not only celebrate the good times with you but to call you to a higher standard when required.

If you want to build some depth into your life and want to finish well, let me recommend taking some time to read A Resilient Life: You Can Move Ahead No Matter What and then begin the long journey of putting Gordon MacDonald’s wisdom into action.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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