Sooner or later, all of us will walk the path of sorrow and loss. J. I. Packer describes grief as “the inward desolation that follows the losing of something or someone we loved – a child, a relative, an actual or anticipated life partner, a pet, a job, one’s home,...
It is rare to read a short booklet that instantly blesses you and lifts you to depend afresh on the Lord. A few months back I came upon one of those rare treasures in Behind a Frowning Providence. John J. Murray (not to be confused with the other earlier prolific systematic theologian John Murray of Princeton and Westminster seminary—thanks to the discerning reader who caught this!) was a pastor who also worked for Banner of Truth for many years and recently went to be with the Lord.
This is one of the shortest, yet deepest; most accessible, yet convicting booklets I’ve ever read. Below are 10 quotes to give you a taste. May your soul expand, suffering Christian, as you feast on this eternally-minded, biblically-rich booklet. Banner of Truth has an excellent edition of the book.
1. Providence is that marvelous working of God by which all the events and happenings in His universe accomplish the purpose He has in mind.
2. In it [providence] God sent His Son into this world for the purpose of redeeming a people. He set His love on hell-deserving sinners and chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world.
3. When adversity comes into our lives we tend to react in one of two ways. We may say that it is from a source other than God and He has no power to stop it; or we may say it is an evidence of God’s anger against us. Either way we are guilty of casting aspersions on the character of our Father and consequently of perverting our attitude to Him.
4. People are looking for a problem-free Christianity. The health, wealth and success gospel is having a field day. Purveyors of such a gospel look the part. Unfortunately, the hollowness of such views becomes apparent when suffering, sorrow or disappointment comes. Then it becomes clear that we need a faith that is grounded in God’s Word.
5. The test of a person’s Christianity is what happens in the storm, when the house is battered in the winds of affliction.
6. What latent corruption there is within! We are like a petro-chemical plant. It takes only a spark to set us alight… Think of the break-out of sin in the lives of so many of the saints. Abraham with his deceit; Job with his rash words; Moses with his anger· Asaph with his murmuring; Paul with his pride. Job could say, ‘I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:6). Asaph had to say, ‘I was foolish and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee’ (Psalm 73:22). Such discoveries make us think less of ourselves and therefore lead us to think more of the Lord Jesus Christ. They bring new depths of repentance and a recovery of a true sense of our own sinfulness.
7. There are areas of the Word of God that we cannot comprehend until we have experienced suffering. For thirty years of my Christian life I neither understood nor was particularly drawn to the book of Job. Along with a particular time of suffering came the help to understanding it. Martin Luther had a similar testimony: ‘Affliction is the Christian’s theologian’; ‘I never knew the meaning of God’s Word until I came into affliction’; ‘My temptations have been my masters in divinity’; ‘No man, without trials and temptations, can attain a true understanding of the Holy Scriptures’.
8. People are usually more anxious to get rid of the problem than they are to find the purpose of God in it. ‘Afflictions’, says Matthew Henry ‘are continued no longer than till they have done their work’. It is also our responsibility to pray that our afflictions will be sanctified to us.
9. God has forged an inseparable link between sufferings and glory. That was the road that Christ took. He was made complete as our Saviour ‘through sufferings’. He endured. He was without sin. How much more is suffering part of the road that leads sinners to perfection and glory! What abundant cause we have to be reconciled to our sufferings!
10. We must not be deceived by the current view that invites us to get rid of our troubles and sicknesses and then rejoice. The New Testament calls on us to rejoice in the midst of sufferings. Indeed we ought to be alarmed if we have no experience of suffering, for we suffer with Him that we may be glorified together. There is no glory without suffering.
Do your heart, soul, and mind a favor and read the whole booklet by Murray free here. It will only take about 30 minutes, but I am confident it will be helpful throughout all your life and even for all eternity.