God’s Purposes and Our Pain

July 21, 2008 at 7:57 am 13 comments

My father-in-law posted this last week, and it was a good (hard) reminder for me.

Why God Doesn’t Fully Explain Pain

By: John Piper

One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened so that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.


Entry filed under: Faith.

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jamsco  |  July 21, 2008 at 8:14 am

    For those people who like everything figure-outable, the infinity of God results in a complexity of cause and events that frustrates, but forces the decision: Will I trust or reject?

    Just codifying . . .

  • 2. John Meche  |  July 21, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Things like this from your father-in-law have helped me so greatly in life’s hardest times. I remember the first time I heard him. It was his biography of Adoniram Judson. On an October night in 2006, I was standing in my kitchen making a ham sandwich and crying my eyes out because I finally realize that God really was in control of all of the bad times in my life. It brought me such sorrow that I had not trusted him the whole time and such joy to know that he never let me go.

  • 3. Sarah  |  July 21, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Learning to trust again after pain is difficult. I try to remember all of the things He has been faithful to in my life. It brings me comfort to know that He doesn’t change even through pain and heartache.
    PS. The artichoke recipe will be up this afternoon.

  • 4. Pam  |  July 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I am so thankful that John Piper doesn’t shy away from these tough questions because many pastors are afraid to address such things but the answers are so incredibly helpful and encouraging.

    I grew up with people explaining pain by saying “it must be sin” or “God’s people don’t pray hard enough”, this despite John 9:1-3!
    I am so thankful for solid teaching on the sovereignty of God, it is so wonderful to rest in Him knowing He is in control of all!

  • 5. shawnda  |  July 21, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I’m with Pam – so thankful that Piper ‘talks’ about these hard issues!!! I’m thankful it spoke to your heart, my friend. I was thinking about you yesterday in church when part of the msg was about how we go through things (trials mostly) and God proves His faithfulness…and these trials and His faithfulness are used to encourage others generations from now (not to mention TODAY!). I couldn’t help but think how the Lord is and will use the loss of Felicity in your life to prove His faithfulness to others around the world!!! I know it’s hard to think about your circumstances in that way or to even care….just to have her in your arms….I’m not saying it should be desirous or easy to accept….not at all. Just sharing that, in the midst of the pain, God is using the pain and will continue to use the pain for His glory and purposes!

    We love you – and He’s used your pain in our lives!!!

  • 6. jennapants  |  July 21, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    In the months following Felicity’s death, I really didn’t anyone to even think that anything remotely good could or should come of it. It seemed offensive for someone to even imply that her death was anything but tragedy tightly insulated with grief.

    Yet one simple question kept coming back to me: Do I really trust God? And this would flow into a series of questions: Do I trust he parted the Red Sea? Do I trust heaven is glorious? Do I trust that God is perfectly good and all-powerful? Do I trust that he does all things well? And I couldn’t shake faith. Grief couldn’t conjure power to change the truth that He alone is trustworthy…and that He is only in the business of doing good…even in the face of a mother’s loss. Where grief is deep, faith is deeper yet.

    Thank you for sharing this, Molly. It is good to hear your Felicity-loving, deeply-grieving heart is also God-trusting.

  • 7. MrsMK  |  July 21, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I thought of you when I read this last week….
    it is so hard, yet good.

  • 8. carissa  |  July 22, 2008 at 12:44 am

    i really liked that post when i read it too. i love the part about macro- and micro-purposes . . . and i’m so thankful that it applies to the blessings as well as the trials. i remember a few years ago seeing a full moon rise over the hills as i drove and thinking, God created the moon for a lot of reasons, and one of them was so that i could appreciate its beauty at this very moment and smile and praise him for it. it’s just literally too wonderful for my mind to dwell on for too long.

  • 9. Chris  |  July 22, 2008 at 5:35 am

    This reminds me of another scripture that has meant a lot to me at times when tragic things that have happened to us. In Philippians 1:12 Paul wrote that what happened to him was used to advance the Gospel. We are not all put in prison as Paul was, but in some ways the things that happen to us are like that–we would not have chosen them, and we are not in control of them, yet they give us an opportunity to share our hope.

    There are times when I have thought there are so many other ways it could have been, but that is not for me to say.

  • 10. Jane Swanson  |  July 22, 2008 at 8:31 am

    These are the words and this is the man that God has used to help us walk through our pain and sorrow.
    You are blessed.

  • 11. Corie O'Brien  |  July 22, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    I love that post. Would you mind if I posted it on my blog?

  • 12. Neely Tamminga  |  July 31, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Molly, Thanks for posting this. It’s been a while since I checked your blog and God needed me to read this. Thanks for posting it, in faith, on a painful day. May God’s Kingdom be furthered by your faithfulness.


  • 13. Bookmarks about Pain  |  October 26, 2008 at 9:45 am

    […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by jordancox on 2008-10-05 God’s Purposes and Our Pain https://thepipers.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/gods-purposes-and-our-pain/ – bookmarked by 3 members […]


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