Finding God in the Darkness

Derek Thomas: Four times in Genesis 39 we read that God was with Joseph (39:2-3, 21, 23). The statements form a set of pillars at either end of the story of Joseph’s initial experience of Egypt. On the one end, they come at the beginning of the story after Joseph has been sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar, the pharaoh’s “captain of the guard” (39:1). The point of the description is to show to us that God’s presence “prospered” Joseph (39:2). He was a “successful man” (39:2) because “the Lord was with him” (39:3). William Tyndale translated it, “the Lord was with Joseph and he was a lucky fellow!” The point is that the presence of God in the life of Joseph prospered him. He was put in charge of Potiphar’s entire house entrusting everything that he had to Joseph. God was there, in the good times. True, he was a slave, but life was good. It is relatively easy to

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How Suffering Reveals Your True Self

Paul David Tripp: Trust Issues Here’s what happens in times of suffering. When the thing you have been trusting (whether you knew it or not) is laid to waste, you don’t suffer just the loss of that thing; you also suffer the loss of the identity and security that it provided. This may not make sense to you if right now you are going through something that you wouldn’t have planned for yourself, but the weakness that is now a part of my regular life has been a huge instrument of God’s grace (see 2 Cor. 12:9.) It has done two things for me. First, it has exposed an idol of self I did not know was there. Pride in my physical heath and my ability to produce made me take credit for what I couldn’t have produced on my own. God created and controls my physical body, and God has given me the gifts that I employ every day. Physical health and

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8 Reminders in These Days of Panic

Dane Ortlund: These are strange days, days of fear, days of hysteria—in other words, days that simply bring all our latent anxieties up to the surface, anxieties that were there all along and are now made visible to others. What do we need to remember in these days of alarm? The World of the Bible. Now we know how the people of God felt throughout the Bible, especially the Old Testament. The prophets and many of the psalms speak to people who are caught up in mass hysteria or subject to pandemics. Maybe the current cultural moment is precisely the hermeneutic we need to read the OT deeply for the first time, which can otherwise feel so foreign. Our True Trust. Times of public panic force us to align our professed belief with our actual belief. We all say we believe God is sovereign and he is taking care of us. But we reveal our true trust when the world goes into meltdown. What’s really our

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3 Doctrines That Sustain Us in Suffering

  Ligon Duncan: Undergird Your Hope While we may not understand what God is doing, we can always trust who he is. We must never interpret God’s character by our circumstances. We must instead interpret our circumstances by God’s character. In Psalm 89, we can find three doctrines that undergird the psalmist’s hope in God and that sustain him in the midst of his suffering. 1. The Doctrine of Election First, we find the psalmist taking comfort from the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election is not an esoteric theological point for seminarians to fight about. Election in Scripture is meant to generate both hope for the people of God and worshiping hearts in the people of God. Notice how the psalmist celebrates God on account of his electing grace: I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. . . . You have said, “I have made a covenant

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What Is God Up to with Corona?

Erik Raymond: “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” (John Piper) I appreciate this quote because it reminds us of our limited perspective. We simply cannot see all that God is doing. But even above blind spots, we have capacity issues. Not only is God doing more than we can see, but he is also doing more than we can fathom. Therefore the first steps in Christian humility have to be in the path revealed by God’s Word. In it, we are given a divine intel briefing that helps us to know what’s going on. Take the current pandemic, for example. If I had a buck for every time someone postulated as to what God was doing in this situation, we’d be making our church budget. There are mysteries here that we simply do not know. But there are things revealed that we do know. Amid this current trial,

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Will We Keep Singing? Trusting God in Troubling Times

David Mathis: I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end — it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:1–4) It doesn’t take much to realize we are living in trying times. Longstanding tensions with North Korea, and now new intensity with Iran. More than forty, to date, have died from the coronavirus in China, and it was announced this morning that we have our third case of it in

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The Book of Job

  Ray Ortlund: The book of Job is not answering a theoretical question about why good people suffer.  It is answering a practical question: When good people suffer, what does God want from them?  The answer is, he wants our trust. The book is driven by tensions.  One, Job really was a good man (1:1, 8; 2:3).  He didn’t deserve what he got.  Two, neither Job nor his friends ever saw the conflict going on between God and Satan, but his friends made the mistake of thinking they were competent to judge.  Three, his friends interpreted his sufferings in moralistic, overly-tidy, accusing categories (4:7-8).  Thus, they did not serve Job but only intensified his sufferings further.  Four, Job refused to give in either to his own despair or to their cruel insinuations.  He kept looking to God, he held on, and God eventually showed up (38:1-42:17). Two observations. One, even personal suffering has a social dimension, as others look on

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Why Did Jesus Sleep During the Storm?

Scott Redd: The story of the sea storm in the Gospel of Mark picks up right after Jesus has given a series of sermons. He’s preached to a crowd so large that he had to speak from a boat pushed a short distance into the water. Mark 4:35–41 tells the story of Jesus calming the storm—but, curiously, we find the Lord asleep as the chaos breaks out around him: And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:37–39) Why was Jesus asleep in the boat? There are a few possible explanations. Mark, as well as most

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How Suffering Reveals Your True Self

Paul Tripp: Trust Issues Here’s what happens in times of suffering. When the thing you have been trusting (whether you knew it or not) is laid to waste, you don’t suffer just the loss of that thing; you also suffer the loss of the identity and security that it provided. This may not make sense to you if right now you are going through something that you wouldn’t have planned for yourself, but the weakness that is now a part of my regular life has been a huge instrument of God’s grace (see 2 Cor. 12:9.) It has done two things for me. First, it has exposed an idol of self I did not know was there. Pride in my physical heath and my ability to produce made me take credit for what I couldn’t have produced on my own. God created and controls my physical body, and God has given me the gifts that I employ every day. Physical health and productivity

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The Key to Not Grumbling in Suffering

John Piper: A Rare Trait I am drawn to people who suffer without murmuring. Especially when they believe in God but never get angry with him or criticize him. It seems to me that not murmuring is one of the rarest traits in the world. And when it is combined with a deep faith in God—who could alter our painful circumstances, but doesn’t—it has a beautiful God-trusting, God-honoring quality that makes it all the more attractive. Paul was like that. Brought to the Brink of Death Paul tells of the time when his faith was put to the test in a way that brought him to the brink of despair and death: We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a

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10 Things You Should Know about Suffering

Sam Storms: Suffering is an unpopular but essential topic for Christians to understand. And it is nowhere more clearly explained than in 1 Peter. So here are ten things we can learn about suffering from this letter. (1) In 2 Corinthians 6:10 Paul describes himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. And in Colossians 1:24 he again declares, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.” It should come as little surprise, then, that Peter would echo this sentiment when he says in 1 Peter 1:6 that we “rejoice” in spite of the fact that “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.” Suffering does not cancel out joy, but provides a platform for others to see that our satisfaction is in Christ and not in material or physical comfort. (2) Suffering for the sake of the gospel is God’s will for us. Peter makes it plain that Christian distress only happens if God wills it. For example, in 1 Peter 3:17 he

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Five words of hope in the face of horrific evil and pain

Denny Burk: When horrific evil and terror unfold before our very eyes, there is a temptation to lose sight of the verities that ought to sustain and comfort us. Here are some words of hope to cling to. Hold them close. 1. God is good all the time. “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps. 106:1). “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9). 2. God is near to the broken-hearted. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “But as for

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Kiss the Wave

Tim Challies: None of us makes it through life without suffering. None of us escapes physical pain, emotional distress, or spiritual agony. At some times and in some ways, we all suffer. No wonder, then, that so many authors have turned to the subject. As Christians, we are well-served with books to help us suffer well and books that help us grapple with the deeper theological questions that inevitably arise in the midst of our darkness. New to the market is Dave Furman’s Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials. The title is drawn from a quote generally attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Furman explains, “When I am in the midst of suffering, I am doing my best just to keep my head above water as the stormy waves of suffering crash over me. I have often longed to be lifted out of the rough and

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10 Things You Should Know about Suffering

Dave Furman: 1. Suffering is a result of the fall. God warned Adam that eating the forbidden fruit would result in death (Gen 2). Romans 5:12 confirms that this happened after Adam’s fall, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Death (and the accompanying pain and suffering) came as a result of that first sin and our continued sin. Pain, suffering, and death—in and of themselves—are not good. 2. God uses suffering for good. Thankfully, Romans 8 tells us “That for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God never tells us our pain is good, but he uses pain to work for our good in his miraculous and mysterious way. One of the ways God uses pain is to wake us up and bring up to himself. Our tendency in

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How Satan Serves God

John Piper: Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11) Behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not that Satan is not involved — he is probably always involved in one way or another with destructive purposes (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission. That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the inspired author of the book (just as he did in 1:22) commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not

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The Cure for a Superficial Faith

    Sam Storms: I’ve been a subscriber to World magazine for as long as I can remember. Some have referred to it as the Christian version of Time magazine. Actually, it’s a lot better than Time ever was and not simply because it is faith-based. But I’m not here to praise World. I’m here to draw attention to two things that I noted in its most recent, August 5, 2017, issue. In an article on the church in China titled “More Growing Pains, More Great Gains,” June Cheng reports on the struggles of believers in that communist country. This article is a follow-up on an earlier piece in which she profiled three groups of Christians “working to help mature the burgeoning Chinese church” (43). One of those on whom she focused is a pastor from Singapore “whose online sermons led to church plants throughout China” (43). When Cheng last saw this man, Joseph Su (whose name has been changed for safety reasons), he was actively involved

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Who Gave Paul His Thorn?

. Andrew Wilson: Who gave Paul his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12? It might sound like a slightly obscure, angels-on-a-pinhead question, but it is actually very significant, because it cuts to the heart of questions about divine sovereignty, suffering, goodness and the agency of the devil. Does God send adversity, to teach us or bring us to maturity? Do God and Satan work together, in some weird way? Is Satan able to act on his own initiative? Does God sometimes actively will for people to experience things they find painful, that good may result? You get the idea. The text doesn’t tell us what exactly the thorn was, and it doesn’t tell us who exactly gave it to Paul. So let’s start with what we know. 1. The thorn was “a messenger of Satan.” 2. It was given “to keep me from being too conceited” (hina mē huperairōmai). 3. It was painful, to the point that Paul pleaded with the

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God, Why This Broken World Like Ours?

John Piper: God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors of that curse — of that futility, of that corruption, disease and death — would become a vivid picture, a parable of the horrors of moral evil, sin. In other words, natural evil exists in the world as a sign post of the horrors of moral evil. Before I show you the text in the Bible, I want you to picture what I am saying in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, perfect, sinless; the world, perfect, no death. Everything is perfect. They eat fruit forbidden, and God strikes the world with a curse in the natural world. Now, in his sin Adam did not hit Eve. There’s no domestic abuse in the Garden of Eden. He didn’t hit her, and God did not say, “You hit her, I am hitting you.” No. Adam hit God. And he hit him not with his fist,

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15 doctrines that ought to bring comfort in suffering

Derek Rishmawy One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming. In what follows, I’d like to simply (and briefly) point out some of the many ways the main doctrines of the Christian faith provide a comfort to the believer in times of struggle, suffering, and pain. Trinity.  Before moving to realities more directly oriented towards God’s actions on our behalf, it’s important to stop and remember the comfort of the fact that before all things, God has eternally been perfectly existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This God

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Romans 8:28 – Life’s Deepest Pains for Your Greatest Pleasure

David Mathis: This is your verse. If you believe in the God of the Bible, and you love him, all the bounty of one of his greatest promises is yours. God’s staggering pledge of Romans 8:28 is that “all things” — not just the good, but even and especially the bad — work for your good. Life’s worst pains are for your eternal joy. All things is a massive phrase. It’s universal, all-inclusive, with no exceptions. It doesn’t take much to believe that life’s best things work for our good. But what makes Romans 8:28 such a life-transforming promise is that this “all things” includes all of life’s worst things. Every single one. Every stab of pain, every barb, every lingering scar. And if we want that with specificity, it’s here in this very context. Romans 8:35–36 lists life’s greatest pains — none of which can separate us from Jesus’s love: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and even

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