The Hidden Smile of God

"In this noteworthy book...John Piper invites you into the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd to discover how God takes the privilege of faith and strengthens it with trials so that we experience a greater hunger for him.

The perseverance of these godly servants exemplifies the essential fruit that affliction can produce in your own life. Their enduring faith will fortify you in your suffering, reminding you that "behind a frowning providence, God hides a smiling face." And their stories and witness will inspire in you a similar passion for the supremacy of God in your life."

--From the back cover

Attempting to summarize a book that itself is summarizing the lives of three great men of God is a task I'm just not up for, so I will instead include some favorite quotes regarding each man's life and life lessons, in hopes of whetting your appetite for the whole.


John Bunyan:

In his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Bunyan writes:

 

"By the scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must...live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to 'look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Piper comments:

"I have not found any phrase in Bunyan's writings that captures better the key to his life than this one: 'To live upon God that is invisible.' He learned that if we suffer well, we must die not only to sin, but also to the imperious claims of precious and innocent things, including family and freedom. While in prison he confessed concerning his wife and children, 'I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies.' 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."


William Cowper:

Piper writes:

"From the standpoint of adventure or politics or public engagement, his life was utterly uneventful--the kind of life no child would ever choose to read about. But those of us who are older have come to see that the events of the soul are probably the most important events in life. And the battles in this man's soul were of epic proportions."

Cowper struggled most of his life, and until his death, with a strong tendency (perhaps even a biological one) toward depression and irrational fear. At times, it literally paralyzed him from any productive discourse or labor. One night he even tried three times to hang himself. Yet, we of course know him as the author of some of the most poignant and potent hymns that have ever been written regarding suffering. He famously penned:

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

Piper comments: "What shall we learn from the life of William Cowper? The first lesson is this: We fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair."

David Brainerd:

Piper observes:

"It was a short life--twenty-nine years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those years as a believer. Only four as a missionary. Why has Brainerd's life made the impact it has?. . . The answer is that Brainerd's life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions."

Brainerd, whose diary was published and disseminated posthumously by Jonathan Edwards and has never since been out of print, writes in his journal:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God. . . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!"

And again: "O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God."

Piper marvels in the variety of men and women -- from different countries, denominations, and centuries, who have since Brainerd been influenced and inspired by his diary and example -- including John Wesley, William Carey, Robert McCheyne, David Livingstone, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot. He therefore concludes:

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."

Resource: 'Finding Grace' Blog Categories: Anxiety and Fear, Christian Living, Facing Temptation, Finding Grace, Patience & Hope, Sovereignty of God, Strength and Encouragement

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--From the back cover

Attempting to summarize a book that itself is summarizing the lives of three great men of God is a task I'm just not up for, so I will instead include some favorite quotes regarding each man's life and life lessons, in hopes of whetting your appetite for the whole.

John Bunyan:

In his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Bunyan writes:

 

"By the scripture I was made to see that if ever I would suffer rightly, I must...live upon God that is invisible, as Paul said in another place; the way not to faint, is to 'look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Piper comments:

"I have not found any phrase in Bunyan's writings that captures better the key to his life than this one: 'To live upon God that is invisible.' He learned that if we suffer well, we must die not only to sin, but also to the imperious claims of precious and innocent things, including family and freedom. While in prison he confessed concerning his wife and children, 'I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies.' 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."


William Cowper:

Piper writes:

"From the standpoint of adventure or politics or public engagement, his life was utterly uneventful--the kind of life no child would ever choose to read about. But those of us who are older have come to see that the events of the soul are probably the most important events in life. And the battles in this man's soul were of epic proportions."

Cowper struggled most of his life, and until his death, with a strong tendency (perhaps even a biological one) toward depression and irrational fear. At times, it literally paralyzed him from any productive discourse or labor. One night he even tried three times to hang himself. Yet, we of course know him as the author of some of the most poignant and potent hymns that have ever been written regarding suffering. He famously penned:

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

Piper comments: "What shall we learn from the life of William Cowper? The first lesson is this: We fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair."

David Brainerd:

Piper observes:

"It was a short life--twenty-nine years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those years as a believer. Only four as a missionary. Why has Brainerd's life made the impact it has?. . . The answer is that Brainerd's life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions."

Brainerd, whose diary was published and disseminated posthumously by Jonathan Edwards and has never since been out of print, writes in his journal:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God. . . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!"

And again: "O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God."

Piper marvels in the variety of men and women -- from different countries, denominations, and centuries, who have since Brainerd been influenced and inspired by his diary and example -- including John Wesley, William Carey, Robert McCheyne, David Livingstone, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot. He therefore concludes:

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."

Resource: 'Finding Grace' Blog Categories: Anxiety and Fear, Christian Living, Facing Temptation, Finding Grace, Patience & Hope, Sovereignty of God, Strength and Encouragement

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Piper comments:

"I have not found any phrase in Bunyan's writings that captures better the key to his life than this one: 'To live upon God that is invisible.' He learned that if we suffer well, we must die not only to sin, but also to the imperious claims of precious and innocent things, including family and freedom. While in prison he confessed concerning his wife and children, 'I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies.' 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."


William Cowper:

Piper writes:

"From the standpoint of adventure or politics or public engagement, his life was utterly uneventful--the kind of life no child would ever choose to read about. But those of us who are older have come to see that the events of the soul are probably the most important events in life. And the battles in this man's soul were of epic proportions."

Cowper struggled most of his life, and until his death, with a strong tendency (perhaps even a biological one) toward depression and irrational fear. At times, it literally paralyzed him from any productive discourse or labor. One night he even tried three times to hang himself. Yet, we of course know him as the author of some of the most poignant and potent hymns that have ever been written regarding suffering. He famously penned:

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

Piper comments: "What shall we learn from the life of William Cowper? The first lesson is this: We fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair."

David Brainerd:

Piper observes:

"It was a short life--twenty-nine years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those years as a believer. Only four as a missionary. Why has Brainerd's life made the impact it has?. . . The answer is that Brainerd's life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions."

Brainerd, whose diary was published and disseminated posthumously by Jonathan Edwards and has never since been out of print, writes in his journal:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God. . . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!"

And again: "O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God."

Piper marvels in the variety of men and women -- from different countries, denominations, and centuries, who have since Brainerd been influenced and inspired by his diary and example -- including John Wesley, William Carey, Robert McCheyne, David Livingstone, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot. He therefore concludes:

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."

Resource: 'Finding Grace' Blog Categories: Anxiety and Fear, Christian Living, Facing Temptation, Finding Grace, Patience & Hope, Sovereignty of God, Strength and Encouragement

Share This Resource:

William Cowper:

Piper writes:

"From the standpoint of adventure or politics or public engagement, his life was utterly uneventful--the kind of life no child would ever choose to read about. But those of us who are older have come to see that the events of the soul are probably the most important events in life. And the battles in this man's soul were of epic proportions."

Cowper struggled most of his life, and until his death, with a strong tendency (perhaps even a biological one) toward depression and irrational fear. At times, it literally paralyzed him from any productive discourse or labor. One night he even tried three times to hang himself. Yet, we of course know him as the author of some of the most poignant and potent hymns that have ever been written regarding suffering. He famously penned:

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

Piper comments: "What shall we learn from the life of William Cowper? The first lesson is this: We fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair."

David Brainerd:

Piper observes:

"It was a short life--twenty-nine years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those years as a believer. Only four as a missionary. Why has Brainerd's life made the impact it has?. . . The answer is that Brainerd's life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions."

Brainerd, whose diary was published and disseminated posthumously by Jonathan Edwards and has never since been out of print, writes in his journal:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God. . . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!"

And again: "O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God."

Piper marvels in the variety of men and women -- from different countries, denominations, and centuries, who have since Brainerd been influenced and inspired by his diary and example -- including John Wesley, William Carey, Robert McCheyne, David Livingstone, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot. He therefore concludes:

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."

Resource: 'Finding Grace' Blog Categories: Anxiety and Fear, Christian Living, Facing Temptation, Finding Grace, Patience & Hope, Sovereignty of God, Strength and Encouragement

Share This Resource:

Tweet

Cowper struggled most of his life, and until his death, with a strong tendency (perhaps even a biological one) toward depression and irrational fear. At times, it literally paralyzed him from any productive discourse or labor. One night he even tried three times to hang himself. Yet, we of course know him as the author of some of the most poignant and potent hymns that have ever been written regarding suffering. He famously penned:

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

God moves in a mysterious wayHis wonders to perform;He plants His footsteps in the seaAnd rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable minesOf never failing skillHe treasures up His bright designsAnd works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;The clouds ye so much dreadAre big with mercy and shall breakIn blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,Unfolding every hour;The bud may have a bitter taste,But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to errAnd scan His work in vain;God is His own interpreter,And He will make it plain.

Piper comments: "What shall we learn from the life of William Cowper? The first lesson is this: We fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair."

David Brainerd:

Piper observes:

"It was a short life--twenty-nine years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those years as a believer. Only four as a missionary. Why has Brainerd's life made the impact it has?. . . The answer is that Brainerd's life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions."

Brainerd, whose diary was published and disseminated posthumously by Jonathan Edwards and has never since been out of print, writes in his journal:

"When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable. . . . Oh, for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God. . . . Oh, that I might never loiter on my heavenly journey!"

And again: "O I longed to fill the remaining moments all for God! Though my body was so feeble, and wearied with preaching and much private conversation, yet I wanted to sit up all night to do something for God."

Piper marvels in the variety of men and women -- from different countries, denominations, and centuries, who have since Brainerd been influenced and inspired by his diary and example -- including John Wesley, William Carey, Robert McCheyne, David Livingstone, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot. He therefore concludes:

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."

"It is an inspiring thought that one small pebble dropped in the sea of history can produce waves of grace that break on distant shores hundreds of years later and thousands of miles away."