John Piper: When Satan Hurts Christ’s People

Christ is so good to us. He gives us promises and hope even in the midst of pain and loss. This is the subject matter of a little essay by John Piper that appeared on the Desiring God website today. Piper writes:

“When huge pain comes into your life—like divorce, or the loss of a precious family member, or the dream of wholeness shattered—it is good to have a few things settled with God ahead of time. The reason for this is not because it makes grieving easy, but because it gives focus and boundaries for the pain.

“Being confident in God does not make the pain less deep, but less broad. If some things are settled with God, there are boundaries around the field of pain. In fact, by being focused and bounded, the pain of loss may go deeper—as a river with banks runs deeper than a flood plain. But with God in his firm and proper place, the pain need not spread out into the endless spaces of ultimate meaning. This is a great blessing, though at the time it may simply feel no more tender than a brick wall. But what a precious wall it is!”

Read the rest of this one and savor all that God is for us in Christ Jesus. Here’s the link: “When Satan Hurts Christ’s People” – by John Piper.


  • Carlito

    Wise words indeed! And I love the analogy of the deep river banks vs. the flood plain. That is a great metaphor, and I think it’s spot-on.

  • jeremy z

    So this logic and theology is a bit messed up. Here is why:

    1) Piper is suggesting that Jesus gives us boundaries to our pain. But, why doesn’t Jesus take the pain away? So basically God is building a boundary for the deep wounds and pain that He caused? This is confusing. It is like I am going to hit you in the face, cause the pain and blood, and then take you to the doctor so he can provide medical care and the appropriate bandages, namely boundaries, that will get you through the pain. So my question, why does God even allow the pain? It is like a dead end road. He creates it, then sets boundaries on the pain.
    2) This undermines God’s power, because this logic suggests that God is allowing the pain, so He can install fencing around the pain. Boundaries suggest, at least to me, a secondary response while healing and restoration suggests a primary response.
    3) I do not want anything to do with a god that only provides “boundaries” for my pain. I want to turn to Jesus to heal the pain. Jesus did not cause the pain, the natural way of the world did. Do I want boundaries? No. Do I want restoration? Yes.

    Seriously, I want you all to think about Piper’s logic here. God creates pain. God gives us boundaries in the midst of the pain, that he created. So what is the point of the pain? It seems a bit circular and very confusing to me.

  • jeremy z

    Seriously, the calvinstic God can only provide a wall for restoration? You got to be kidding me.

    This is what non-calvinistic God can do:

    The whole creation is corrupt and has been hijacked by Satan (Colossian 1). We find throughout the Gospels how Jesus identifies infirmities (sickness, disease, deformities, and disabilities) as being directly or indirectly the result not of God’s punishing activity, but of Satan’s oppressive activity. Humanity and the creation needs to be reconciled. Essentially Jesus had to enter Satan’s turf, which made Jesus fair game and vulnerable to the evil ways of this world. Jesus had to play by the world’s rules. Jesus had to defeat the devil through death. At Calvary, Jesus destroyed the evils ways of this world (Heb 2.14, 1 Jn 3.8), reconciled all things, including humans, to Himself (2 Cor 5.18-19; Col 1.20-22); forgave us of our sins (Acts 13.38; Eph 1.7); healed us from our sin-diseased nature (1 Peter 2.24); poured his Spirit on us and empowered us to live in relation to Himself (Roman 8.2-16); and gave us an example to follow (Eph 5.1-2; 1 Pet 2.21). This is why Calvary is so central to Christianity. Calvary communicated redemption, restoration, healing, salvation, comfort, hope, and victory through Christ and the cross. The cross is the reconstruction of the world’s corruption. The cross at Calvary was not a cross for only providing a cute precious wall we could latch on to because of the pain, which God caused. The cross communicates healing and defeat, not boundaries.

    Boundaries are undermining who God is. Healing and restoration express the full power of who God.

  • mike

    2 Cor

    3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
    8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our[a] behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

    Rom 5

    And we[a] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we[b] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope.

  • jeremy z

    hahahahahahahahah……I love it Brett.

    Listen Mike, not to be blunt or direct. But, I would deeply appreciate a commentary on the copied and pasted verses you got from

    I have read those verses over and over, but I would love for you to articulate and state a position in relation to God as our boundary. Essentially articulate a theological position that fits into the overarching Calvinistic perspective in how God handles these type of events.

  • jeremy z

    Here is how I backed up my theology of streaking.

    NJB Mark 14:52 but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.

    This is why we interpret the Bible literally.

  • Mason Beecroft

    Calvinistic vs non-Calvinistic God? Wow, those are profound categories. The depth of reflection is further evidenced in the sophomoric engagement with the issue of pain and suffering.

    Really, Christ does bring the Christian through the pain and suffering of this fallen world through death into everlasting life. This is the Christian hope. Those who deny or diminish the reality of pain and suffering that inevitably result from our sinful flesh, the world, and the devil are theologians of glory (cf. Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation). The true theologian, however, looks always to the cross. We bear the cross in this life, which means suffering, hardship, rejection, sickness, and death. Our hope is that Christ redeems and ultimately delivers us by the power of His resurrection. The glory of eternity is ours, but is only fully realized when we receive our imperishable inheritance. Therapeutic drivel about “victory, healing, restoration, and wholeness” is pious, but does not speak to the profound mystery of our existence in this diseased world. And it is not the language of the faith. Victory (1 Cor 15) points to the final reign of Christ over death. Healing in the Gospels demonstrates Christ’s ultimate power of sin, death, and hell and points to the eschaton. Yet in our day of therapuetic Christianity, these words have lost all meaning and significance.

    Now I am no Calvinist or non-Calvinist and have no dogs in the hunt, but Piper never seemed to attribute pain to God… maybe I misread the article.

  • Kevin J

    It is funny how if the text says something that you disagree with then you call it “proof texting”. If you object to the use of the text show why you think it was taken out of context. It would be easy to do that with the non-sensical use of the “streaking” text. Comeon guys…grow up!

    I know this is “rude” but it is true.

  • Benjamin A.

    Good word Mason.

    I too failed to see in the article where Piper claimed that God caused the pain. The title itself should be enough to make that point, “When Satan Hurts Christ’s People”.

    James chapter 1 gives us an entire chapter on how to properly think about and react to ‘various trials’ in this life.

    Verses 2-5 each have an imperative that is very instructive:
    v.2 Consider it all joy when encountering various trials.
    v.3 Knowing

  • Benjamin A.

    Good word Mason.

    I too failed to see in the article where Piper claimed that God caused the pain. The title itself should be enough to make that point, “When Satan Hurts Christ’s People”.

    James chapter 1 gives us an entire chapter on how to properly think about and react to ‘various trials’ in this life.

    I apologize in advance for its length; Jeremy and Brett are concerned with proof texting so here ya go.

    James 1:
    Verses 2-5 each have an imperative that is very instructive:
    v.2 CONSIDER it all joy when encountering various trials.
    v.3 KNOWING that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
    v.4 And LET endurance have its perfect result that . . .

    We are commanded to 1)consider (think about) various trials with a right attitude; 2) know that trials test our faith in order to produce endurance in our walk; 3) to let (submissively allow) the product of trials when responded to rightly (endurance) to make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [progressive sanctification into Christ-likeness].

    And if we struggle with these commands in scripture, and we struggle with understanding how various trials could really be for my spiritual good and growth; then in v.5 we are given another imperative: PRAY for wisdom.

    v.5 “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ASK (imperative/command) of God . . .
    who gives to all generously (lit. with singleness of heart) and without reproach (without reprimand; God isn’t going to brow beat His children who are struggling with understanding the purpose of trials.

    vv. 6-8 say to ask for wisdom in faith without doubting or else be perpetually tossed by the wind and wave of doubt, never receiving “anything from the Lord”, being double-minded, unstable in life.

    This is what wrongly thinking about the purpose of trials leads to- an unstable life.

    v.9 In trials- “glory in” your position in Christ. Remember what really matters for time and eternity.

    v.10-11. In trials- “the rich man” is to glory in his humiliation. What ever the trial was that brought about the rich mans humiliation, James tells him to “glory” in that humiliation (in that he now is like the brother of humble circumstances and he too can glory in his position in Christ); for most rich people are simply interested in their own pursuits and think little of Jesus and eternity, and as James says, “so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”

    v.12 Blessed is the person who perseveres under trial (does what James/scripture commands from vv. 2-5); FOR once he has been approved (through the endurance of various trials in this life [note: this is post-Calvary.] Then he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

    Those who love Him, were allowed by Him to go through the various trials in order to produce in them something of Christ-likeness that they couldn’t have obtained without the various trials. The same is still true today.

    vv. 13-15 God doesn’t tempt us- to doubt His goodness through the process of various trials- such tempting is evil. [We do have an adversary however who as the father of lies is still in the business of tempting us to doubt God and His word; and in James 1 context how to think and act rightly in view of various trials (see. Genesis 3:1-5)]. What does tempt us however is our flesh (lust). And when we think wrongly about trials and their intended purpose, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death (separation of intimacy from our God).

    v.16 Do not be deceived (about the purpose of trials and how we must navigate our way through them).

    v.17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above (again in the context of trials; and in that trials v.4 make “us perfect and complete lacking in nothing” and v.12 when finally approved by the endurance of life’s trials we “will receive the crown of life”; James here refers to trials as that which is a “good thing given” and as a “perfect gift from above, coming down from the Father of lights . . .”

    v.18 It was according to His will to save us to and to put us on display as trophies of His grace to the world. Various trials not withstanding.

    v.19 So be “quick to hear”- what James has taught about rightly thinking about trials.
    “Slow to speak”- Speak wisely regarding trials and their intended purpose. Don’t speak wrongly about trials or else you will be in opposition with God.
    “Slow to anger”- Trials often evoke anger from our flesh. Slow down. Remember v.3&4.

    v.20 For your anger will never achieve what God is wanting to achieve in your life; but the right response to various trials WILL achieve God’s intended purpose in your life (see. V.4&12).

    v.21 So put aside your wrong responses to trials and humble receive God’s word regarding them, for it’s His word that is able to save your souls from the torment of wrongly responding to trials (see v.15=death/separation of intimacy).

    v.22 Do God’s word/ don’t just listen (in this context to trials). Listeners delude themselves.

    vv. 23-24 Don’t look into God’s word, see the necessary changes needed, and fail to make those changes. Respond rightly to trials.

    v.25 Blessed is the person who after looking into God’s perfect law does what it says to do (context= regarding trials).

    v.26 For those who claim to have true union with Christ, yet speaks wrongly about trials demonstrating a deceived heart, they aren’t making the most of their high position.

    v.27 What God calls for (even though we are going through various trials) is to be others focused, caring for others, widows/orphans/ etc., in their distress (trials of life); don’t get self absorbed in yourself (notice the example of Christ from Philippians 2:5-9; “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . .”).

    Isn’t God good to give us an entire chapter dealing with trials and how we are to navigate through them in this life.

    Sorry again for the length, but it seems that this sight has attracted some who constantly cry foul (proof texting) to any single reference of scripture.

  • Brett


    Thank you for this approach. I do not mean to convey the idea that all proof-texting is evil and wrong, so if I do I’m sorry. The reason I am so adamant about it is b/c it can be so dangerous and it is a method that is too prevalent that just doesn’t work every time. We just can’t quote a verse as a means to give us authority on our point and expect everybody to know what that verse means in all situations.

    On the contrary, I say proof-texting is absolutely necessary at times and can be very useful. I just have issues with a topic like Calvinism vs. Arminianism, or John Piper’s thesis that God does all things to glorify himself, followed by 30 proof-texts. I just want everybody to see that we can make a heretical claim and do the same thing. The Gnostics literally had hundreds of proof-texts and they were possibly the worst heretics Christianity has ever had to deal with.

    Kevin, I certainly don’t cry “proof-texting” every time I disagree with something, so to make that claim is a bit far-fetched. However, I see your point because my statements could convey the idea that we should never quote scripture, which is completely absurd!

    The bottom line is, by proof-texting I can make God evil, and I can make him good; I can make God concerned solely about humanity, and I can make him concerned solely about himself; I can make him dangerous, and I can make him a rock and refuge; I can make Jesus be only divine, and I can make him be only human; I can argue for the fall of mankind thus changing him constitutionally, and I can make mankind inherently good with no constitutional change since God’s creation; I can make the serpent in the garden one of the creature’s that YHWH made, or I can make him satan.

    I think you catch my drift

  • Benjamin A.

    Jeremy in post 6 you chided Mike with-

    “hahahahahahahahah……I love it Brett.

    Listen Mike, not to be blunt or direct. But, I would deeply appreciate a commentary on the copied and pasted verses you got from

    I have read those verses over and over, but I would love for you to articulate and state a position in relation to God as our boundary. Essentially articulate a theological position that fits into the overarching Calvinistic perspective in how God handles these type of events.”

    Well, in post 12 I have done this for you and was wondering if you were going to dialogue over the text?

  • Benjamin A.


    Where did ya go?

    I’m guessing you must have changed your mind about Piper’s theology and logic being all “messed up.” Great!

    You said from post #2:
    “I do not want anything to do with a god that only provides “boundaries” for my pain.”

    In light of James chapter one that “logic and theology sounds messed up” doesn’t it!

    Have a blessed weekend and Lord’s Day.

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