“The Hidden Smile of God.”

March 11, 2008

books.jpg Gracie gave me this book about half a year ago: John Piper’s The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, & David Brainerd.

Sometimes, it’s a relief to read biographies & to lose myself in someone else’s life for a short while. Sometimes, it’s easier to see His hand more clearly in another’s life.

I used to underline almost everything I read in these sorts of books, but now I keep my pen far away. I only underline now if I think it’s worth the trouble of finding my pen.

These were worth the ‘trouble’:


Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face. We may see it in our lifetime, or we may not.

John Bunyan’s Life

Thus we must learn to ‘live upon God that is invisible,’ not only because God is superior to sinful pleasures, but also because He is superior to sacred ones as well. Everything else in the world we must count as dead to us & we to it.

The greatest Puritan theologian, & a contemporary of Bunyan, John Owen, when asked by King Charles why he, a great scholar, went to hear an uneducated tinker preach, said, ‘I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.’

William Cowper’s Life

His certainties were not sureties. So it will always be with the deceptions of darkness. Let us now, while we have the light, cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.

Mental health is, in great measure, the gift of self-forgetfulness. The reason is that introspection destroys what matters most to us — the authentic experience of great things outside ourselves . . . Oh, the danger of too much pondering of our inner states!

But at least I suggest that Cowper would have benefited by less retreat & ease & contemplation & more engagement with suffering people who needed help.

. . . redeeming love our theme until we die . . .

David Brainerd’s Life

(In his diary) [I] could have no freedom in the thought of any other circumstances or business in life.

. . . submission above security. . .

(In his diary) Oh, how sweet it is to be spent & worn out for God!

Brainerd did this [giving sustained attention to great themes], not out of concern for sustaining the greatness of his own soul, but out of passion for the greatness of God in Christ, & the tragedy of unreached Indians entering eternity without a saving knowledge of this God.

Who can describe the value of one soul . . . If we live twenty-nine years or if we live ninety-nine years, would not any hardships be worth the saving of one person from the eternal torments of hell for the everlasting enjoyment of the glory of God?

Life is too precious to squander on trivial things. Grant us, Lord, the unswerving resolve to pray & live with David Brainerd’s urgency: ‘Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!’


We move away from bad neighborhoods. We leave hard relationships. We don’t go to dangerous, unreached people groups. Bunyan beckons us to listen to Jesus & His apostles again. Jesus never called us to a life of safety, nor even to a fair fight.

When you spend the last seven years of your life spitting up blood & die at age twenty-nine [like David Brainerd], you don’t just say those words–“here we have no lasting city”–you feel them the way you feel the wind on a cliff’s edge. Oh, how many feel the wind & run inland! The call of Christ & the call of Brainerd are exactly the opposite of such a retreat: Since we have no lasting city here, stop working so hard trying to make it lasting & luxurious, & ‘go forth to Him outside the camp’–outside the safe place, outside the comfortable place. Yes, Golgotha is a bleak hill–a skull with a frown of affliction on its face. But remember: ‘Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.’ Let go of what holds you back from full & radical service–be ready to suffer for finishing the Great Commission. Don’t forget ‘that you have for yourselves a better possession & a lasting one’ (Hebrews 10:34). You have God–& all that He is for you in Jesus.


2 Responses to ““The Hidden Smile of God.””

  1. cathiekimn Says:

    the gift of self-forgetfulness.
    thought about that one a lot these past few days…
    mmm hope you’re doing well, tia!
    i’m going home in a couple weeks — will you be there?

  2. tia Says:

    cathie: you have mail! :]

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