The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper
This book is a compilation of three biographical studies (John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd) which seeks to display what Piper calls "the fruit of affliction" in the lives of each man. Each of these men suffered in varying degrees but all suffered greatly. Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ without state approval. Cowper suffered the harsh realities of parental loss and constantly struggled with depression, suicidal tendencies, and fear of finally being rejected by God. Brainerd endured great physical suffering (tuberculosis) for the last seven years of his short life and spent much of it in the wilderness preaching to Indians. Each of these men endured their suffering as part of the wise bestowment of God. They did not reject it as a cruel turn of events, nor did they have a blind eye to the realities of the pain which was present with them, but saw it through biblical lenses as a normal experience of the Christian life.
If we were to look at our day and compare the concerns of modern Christianity with those of previous generations, then we might not be surprised at the level of soul strength which so often seems to be absent. This book and the message of these men's lives was a tremendous encouragement to me as I have looked at suffering in my own life. Don't read it because you're a Piper fan. Read it because the men he holds out to us had a powerful impact on Christendom precisely because of how they handled affliction. Piper is great at peeling back the layers of our own hearts so that a word of truth and conviction can be implanted.
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