Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Recent Reading

God moves in mysterious ways,

His wonders to perform;

He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Last week I finished book two of John Piper's Christian biographies series, "The Hidden Smile of God":

"John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd suffered in the midst of their kingdom labors. For Bunyan it was prison and danger for preaching the gospel. For Cowper it was life-long depression and suicidal darkness. For Brainerd it was tuberculosis and the "howling darkness" of American forests.

In these three biographies, John Piper explains how their steadfastness through trial sweetened and intensified their song of faith. The stories of how they suffered, how they endured, and how their affliction bore fruit will ignite radical Christian living, God-centered worship, and Christ-exalting mission.

Consider their stories and be encouraged that no labor and no suffering in the path of Christian obedience is ever in vain. As Cowper wrote, "Behind a frowning providence God hides a smiling face.""

I should have written my thoughts on the book last week, when it was fresh on my mind. The chapter on William Cowper was the most thought-provoking for me. The lifelong depression he endured was incredibly intense, so overwhelming, that I don't think I can comprehend how hard life was for him. The small experiences I have had with depression, though very small, makes me very sympathetic for him. Reading the chapter on his life brought back a question to my mind that I've discussed with people before: Can Christians commit suicide and go to heaven? If anyone has some good thoughts on this, I'd like to hear from you.

The part I liked best in the David Brainerd chapter was the line from his journal, "Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!" I seem to be at a loitering stage in my life right now and it annoys me. The chapter on John Bunyan just made me put "Pilgrim's Progress" on my reading list. It was a good book, worth reading.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

-William Cowper

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