5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Ken Wytsma’s The Grand Paradox + Giveaway

When asked to fill in as host for The Rose City Forum on KKPZ radio, I knew exactly which guests I wanted to interview on the show. I screamed like a fangirl professionally emailed a thank you response when Ken Wytsma agreed to discuss his new book, The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith with me and the Portland listeners. 

(You can listen to podcast interview here)

Ken is the founder of The Justice Conference and author of the book Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things, two events which have encouraged me serving in the local community. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ken’s new work and I’m glad I had no pre-conceived notions. Reading this book challenged lifelong assumptions and has proceeded to rock my world. 

The following are 5 of the many lessons I’ve learned from reading The Grand Paradox: 

1. My relationship with God isn’t all about me.

So many times I’ve blamed God’s will when things didn’t go my way, or even ignored the call I’m sensing because I didn’t feel up to the task. Surely God will understand and call me in a different direction, I’ve justified.

God’s plan will be complete whether or not I participate. The question is, will I act self-centered and wait until I’m comfortable or will I follow any call to be part of His will, not my own?

Ken’s Words: We pray, and seek God’s will, as though He has a specific will for each of us – for each of the 7 billion people alive today. I think it’s more accurate to understand Him as having one will that involves separate roles for each of those 7 billion people.

2. When asking God, “What should I do?” I need to listen to the answer, even if it’s not the response I want to hear. 

Ken shares an example of a couple who relocated as the housing market crashed. He could have been talking about Edd and me. Moving south a state was a tremendously difficult decision for us and not financially wise at all. Even though our lives have flourished greatly since the move to Portland in non-financial ways, there is always the thought in the back of our heads…did we do the right thing? 

After reading the chapter “Wisdoms Folly”, I am confident we followed our hearts with God. But, I also know if we would have stayed put, God’s will would have still been done. We put way too much pressure on ourselves playing the “what if” game. Really, we should just keep walking forward in wisdom and trust.*

Ken’s Words: There is a tension to such discernment and decision making. That which calls us to act rationally can be the voice of God, which we need to obey, or it can be the voice of folly, tempting us to remain safe while ignoring God’s trustworthy call to step out in faith.

3. “Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life.” ~KW

Again and again my prayers are filled with the questions: “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “Why me?”

After reading “Personal Calling and Mission”, I think the answer from God is this: You are here because I love you. Now get off the computer and go love people in My name.

Ken’s Words: Sometimes the more relevant prayer is not, “God, what is Your specific will for my life? but, “God, help me understand what decisions to make today, what endeavors to undertake, what people to pursue, and which goals to set.”

4. “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” ~ Westley, The Princess Bride

No one wants suffering in their lives. We, as Christians, are not immune to pain. Read the Bible. All of it. Even those who were Jesus followers – especially those who were Jesus followers – suffered mentally and physically, yet they did not stop sharing the Gospel. This says a great deal to me regarding the power of Jesus.

I admit, I try to numb myself to suffering – not just with Advil, but with TV, self-help books, and when I’m really low – Oprah. I need a better plan. True faith isn’t feeling good all of the time. If we don’t manage our hardships, we don’t grow.

Ken’s Words: If we become enchanted by the promise of prosperity and endless health, we are setting ourselves up for shocking, unmerciful disappointment. If we anticipate adversity, we will do ourselves a lot of good and grow our ability to persevere in our walk of faith.

5. I need a priority shift.

I’m a people pleaser. I like to do all of the things for all of the people all of the time. Everything becomes a high priority. Honestly, this hasn’t been working all that well for me. 

Instead of placing my priority on others’ feelings about me, I need to focus on the One who matters. If I filtered all of my thoughts and activities through the God-priority lens, days may end up more meaningful and I bet I’d be a lot less stressed. We all have our own relationship with God, so this may look differently for each of us. (I needed to write that last sentence down as a reminder.)

Ken’s Words: Life is too precious to waste any season of it. 

I’ve so many more lessons to share, but you have your own lessons to learn. The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith, by Ken Wytsma, releases today. You can buy your own copy because you’ll want to re-read this in years to come.


You can win the book just by commenting on this post! Which of the 5 lessons above speak to you the most? 

On Friday 1/30/15 at 9:00 pm PST, I’ll randomly choose a commenter and mail him/her a copy. Trust me, this is a reference you’ll want in your home library!

*My life-motto for the year.

Related Posts:
The Justice Conference
Pursuing Justice

Amason links are affiliate links


  1. Bekah Beste says

    I agree with you it is very important to ask how we can help, often times I find it is just recognizing the humanity of everyone around us.
    haven't heard of that book before but it looks great

  2. Shay says

    #2 Resonates with me so much! That is the hardest thing, to follow God's plan when you know it is the right thing, but not necessarily the thing you want to do.

  3. Cindy says

    “Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life.” ~KW – Number 3 for sure!

  4. sandra says

    "Instead of asking what God’s will is for my life, I should be asking how I can serve God’s will with my life.” #3 for me for sure!

  5. Stephanie says

    I need to remember that "life is too precious to waste any season of it" when the storms of seasons (or maybe it's just toddlerhood tantrums) are brewing all around me.

  6. Paul Warner says

    First of all, sounds like an excellent book. Second, any blog that uses a Princess Bride quote is an excellent blog. Third, the #5 Priority Shift lesson speaks to me the most because I often allow others' feelings about me to cause much anxiety, but instead of being stressed I need to focus on the One who matters. Also reminds me of my fav old school Amy Grant song – "All I ever have to be is what you've made me."

  7. David Goldberg says

    From reading the excellent article above, I think I already know the answer to this question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. Do you think that the book presents an exclusively Christian view of faith in the modern world, or do you think people of different faiths would benefit from it? In other words, does it speak generally about faith, or very specifically? My impression from the above summary is that it would have something to say to everyone, but of course I haven't read it.

  8. says

    David, this is such a good question and a little hard for me to answer because I so went into it with a Christian lens. I definitely think the book speaks about faith in the Judeo-Christian God, but I'm not sure you need a belief in Jesus to gain something.

    He does talk about Jesus – but more in the respect of you can't believe in Jesus but not in justice, because Jesus is justice. I would LOVE to get your take on it. If your name doesn't get pulled from this contest drawing, it's on Amazon for Kindle at $2.99 right now. If you don't like it, I'll send you $3. 🙂

  9. Megan says

    I am always working on #1. I loved hearing his idea of God having one will within which we (all 7 billion) play a different role. This is one of the most reasonable and relatable ideas I've come across. Isn't it true, though? Put simply, his will is for us ALL to accept a relationship with Him and be a part of His kingdom. It's almost a bit egocentric to focus on our desire/need to know his will for us specifically as individuals, which brings me back to #1 again, it's not all about me. People at Kaleo are the first I've observed who don't outwardly take credit for their successes and instead attribute their accomplishments to God. It's a unique group, those Kaleoites. So glad I found them!

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