You Don’t Want To Read This

Published on November 1, 2009 by CT in Blog, Kindling


You Don't Want To Read This

When others’ words kindle my own flame:  Reflections on words by @JohnPiper.


“WARNING Graphic. Don’t talk about the sovereignty of God in suffering without this reality in your mind.” (John Piper on Twitter)


I realize the title of this post may actually make you want to read this, so I am in a sense being disingenuous by drawing you in by this method.  But if you’re anything like me, you may be sick to your stomach at the end of what you read, so know you have been warned.

We are in the middle of shooting videos to support chapter downloads of Crave (beginning next week), and one of the chapters we shot this weekend was called “Suffering.”  It’s an exploration of how God uses suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them; specifically it focuses on what Paul means in calling suffering a gift (see Phil 1:29).  It asks us to go to war with our understanding of good, knowing God works together all things for our good, including suffering.

I mean to treat the subject boldly, to engage an issue that seems uncomfortable and bring hard, Biblical truth to bear on the matter.  But I now realize I treat the subject dismissively, writing from the whitest of ivory towers with not so much as a tear to shed in the global experience of suffering.

I realize this because of John Piper’s Tweet; more specifically, because of the picture to which he links.  He prefaces the picture with a warning and is right to do so.  I echo that warning.  I don’t do well with graphic pictures, but the topic caught my eye and I took a look.  And I’m sorry and glad I did.

This picture changes things for me.  I hope and pray it doesn’t change my theology.  I hope it changes the way I think about my theology, or rather, the way I think about this God I serve.  A God who works all things together for good, including the suffering I’ve experience in being laughed at for being a Christian, is a different God who works all things together for good, to include the suffering of a girl who has half her faced burned off.  I guess He’s not actually a different God; it’s my understanding of this God that’s different.

God is sovereign and good.  There’s a danger to believing in this kind of God when you live in a place like Afghanistan where suffering is a way of life.  But there’s perhaps more of a danger to believing in this kind of God when you live in a place where comfort is a way of life.  May God grant us grace to grow in our understanding of Him, and may His kind of mercy blow the doors off the kind of grace we think we might want.

Original Blog Posting:

Note:  A follow-up Tweet by @JohnPiper stated:  “Many have asked where the WARNING picture I posted came from.  Here:  She was burned in a helicopter attack.”

  • anon

    Chris, I didn't look at the picture.I'm sorry, but today I am just too sad and dealing with something that has me wrestling with — agonizing over — the whole issue of God, His sovereignty, His goodness, His power…

    If you knew me personally, you would know that I cannot be quiet about God, or His Sovereignty, or His goodness, or…well, God. Period. I love Him. He is my passion. He is my refuge, my help, my hope. Over the last 8 years our family has gone through my husband losing his job twice (without cause and in both cases unjustly — once for reasons of integrity were involved), major relocation moves three times, my husband had pancreatic cancer (has been in remission for 7 1/2 years), my daughter had CML a rare form of lukemia that strikes older people — they think she may have had it since she was 13 — she had a bonemarrow transplant that has resulted in life altering complications related to rejection. Until the last year we have seen that God is sovereign, that He is at work. He was teaching this (that would be me) queen of worrying that He was God and He alone, that there is no darkness in Him, that He has a plan and a purpose and it was good! He taught me about trust — even when we didn't hear the "remission" word, even when complication after complication piled up. Even when the what I had imagined as close to the worst happened. Then mental illness struck. My daughter has tried to committe suicide 3 times.She is in and out of hospital constantly, yet she seeks God as He is the only answer. Medication has not helped, ECT has not helped, therapy has not helped. But God seems silent. Today I was at the end of my rope, tired, discouraged, defeated. I have been called to "preach" about the goodness, the sovereignty, the wonder of God and that He is worthy of our whole hearted submission and trust. How God, I cried, do I do this when this — something that is fundamentally about abundant life in Him (I'm not talking about never suffering or always feeling good — I'm talking about the sufficiency of His grace) and a work of His Spirit is not being made a reality in a "little ones" (ok, she's an adult but you know) life. A few days ago I read Isaiah 43 and today God reminded me, that I am called to be His witness, His servant — to know and believe and understand that He is God. He is the Lord,my God and He promises to be with me as I (and those I love) pass through the waters, as we go through the fire and the flood and these things will not overtake me – and I will be witness to His work. Well, I sense a peace, and it is ONLY by faith (because site certainly indicates something very different) that I am able to stand on this. His word says it and His word is true. My prayer is that I will always be able to testify to the wonder and the love and sovereignty of My Great God who is GOOD even if I cannot see it or feel it. I will hang on (as Jacob did) until He blesses me.

    • Chris_Tomlinson

      Amen. Thank you for sharing. Jacob limped from that point forward, and I imagine he treasured that limp, as will you.

    • Chris_Tomlinson

      Amen. Thank you for sharing. Jacob limped from that point forward, and I imagine he treasured that limp, as will you.