The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Sunday, May 17, 2015

God's Grace and Your Sufferings

In an essay written by David Powlison titled God's Grace and Your Sufferings (in the book Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor) he made a couple of fairly profound statements that I thought I would highlight here.

"What makes it hard for us to hear [God speak to us through His Word]? There are times we have a hard time slowing down to listen. There are times we simply don't want to listen. There are times we are busy listening to ten thousand other voices, including our own. There are times we feel so weary and disheartened that we don't feel up for listening. But whatever the particulars, our essential problem is deafness to God's voice. We become absorbed in the world of our own experiences, thoughts, feelings, and opinions. The early church used a wonderful phrase to capture the essential inward-turning nature of sinfulness: curvitas in se. We curve in on ourselves. Sin's curvitas in se pointedly turns away from God. When you or others suffer, you experience or witness the strength of this incurving tendency. It's hard not to be self-preoccupied." p. 155

"But it is worth noting that Christians, as new creations in Christ, also live in an essentially different relationship to their own sinfulness. Your sin now afflicts you. The "dross" no longer defines or delights you. Indwelling sin becomes a form of significant suffering. What you once instinctively loved now torments you. The essential change in your relationship with God radically changes your relationship to remaining sinfulness. In Christ, in order to sin, you must lapse into temporary insanity, into forgetfulness. It is your worst cancer, your most crippling, disability, your most treacherous enemy, your deepest distress. It is the single most destructive force impacting your life. Like nothing else in all creation, this threatens your life and well-being.

"This is not to justify or excuse our sins. Your sin is your sin. When you get your back up in an argument, when you vegetate in front of the TV, when you spin a fantasy world of romance or eroticism, when you grumble about the weather, when you obsess about your performance in the eyes of significant others, when you worry, nag, or gossip, you do these things. No evil twin, no hormone, no satanic agency, and no aspect of your upbringing can take credit or blame for the works of your flesh. You do it. You wanted to do it . . . but you don't really want to, when you come to your senses. And you do come to your senses. The conflicted dual consciousness of the Christian always lands on its feet. You commit sin, but you are more committed to the Lord, because he is absolutely committed to you. Many psalms capture this tension that always resolves the right way. They confess the dark vitality of indwelling sin while confessing love for the triumphant mercies and goodness of the Lord." p. 163-164

"Grace means courage. When God says, "Fear not," his aim is not that you would just calm down and experience a relative absence of fear. He does not say, "Don't be afraid. Everything will turn out okay. So you can relax." Instead he says, "Don't be afraid. I am with you. So be strong and courageous." Do you hear the difference? The deep waters have not gone away. The opposite of fear is fearlessness. Fearlessness is active and enduring. It carries on constructively in the midst of stressful things that don't feel good at all. Courage means more than freedom from anxious feelings. Endurance is a purposeful "abiding under" what is hard and painful, considering others even when you don't feel good." p. 165

I have not read enough of David Powlison's writings.


  1. Thanks, Darren. This is such good stuff!

  2. This is my third try at leaving a comment. I just read your selection by David Powlison. It was so meaningful to me where I am in my walk with the Lord.