I received some help some a surprising source last week. This is a sin that affects me deeply, even if not frequently. Usually I do a good job of managing things so that I stay in control. In those circumstances where things get beyond me, I resort first to grumbling, and then Stoicism. This paragraph nailed me:
There is a critical difference here we need to note. Groaning is not grumbling. When we groan, we must learn to do it without grumbling, trusting in the faithfulness of God and his promises
Groaning and grumbling can seem similar, but biblically they are quite different. Both are responses to suffering, but their sources and their direction are different. Groaning is a response to the weight of suffering, and it is directed toward God as an honest expression of pain, grief, and sorrow. Grumbling also reflects the weight of suffering, but it springs from anger and resentment toward God. It lacks a memory of his past faithfulness. Groaning expresses an element of hope in God, despite current sufferings, but grumbling reflects a lack of hope and faith and is accompanied by a sense of doom. In the Bible, we see that God responds to groaning with mercy, but he responds to grumbling with anger and discipline. Still, even when we grumble there is hope. God is slow to anger, he does not forget his promises, and even in his discipline his goal is to draw his people to him in grace and pardon.
Benjamin Mast, Second Forgetting, 84-85
John Webster, on “the Christian specificity required of a Christian doctrine of providence”:
At each point, the cogency of the presentation [of the doctrine of providence] depends upon deployment of and governance by the Christian doctrine of God and its economic entailments. A Christian doctrine of providence is only derivatively a theory of history, a cosmology or an account of divine action in the world; most properly, it is a representation of how the Father’s plan for the fullness of time is set forth in Christ and made actual by the Holy Spirit among the children of Adam. In other words, the identities of the agents in the history of providence — this God and his creatures — are fundamental to determining its course and character. Barth’s insistence on providence as God’s ‘fatherly lordship’ is surely the most extended modern attempt to account for this. Again, Christian specificity about the ends of providence is crucial to grasping its nature, for providence is not mere static world maintenance but teleological, the fulfillment of the ordered fellowship with God which is the creature’s perfected happiness. The key questions are not cosmological but theological, and their answers derive from specifications of the enacted name of God.
“On the Theology of Providence“, pp. 161–162
If God is totally sovereign over all things, then do our choices and actions have real meaning? If God is in control, aren’t we all just puppets? Bavinck explains two extremes, Deism (in which God is totally removed and only creatures have meaningful action in the world) and Pantheism (in which God is the only one doing anything at all), and then spells out the wonder and glory of the Christian doctrine of God’s providence:
Always to be a theist in the full and true sense of the word, that is, to see God’s counsel and hand and work in all things and simultaneously, indeed for that very reason, to develop all available energies and gifts to the highest level of activity — that is the glory of the Christian faith and the secret of the Christian life.
Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2 p 605
I’ve had this thought in scattered glimpses over the years, never as cogently as Carson puts it here.
From Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson, p. 127
“Christians cannot possibly view democracy as “the cure” for the world’s ills. For many pragmatic and moral reasons, we may concur that, granted attendant structures and liberties, it is the form of government least unaccountable to the people and least likely to brutalize its citizens without some eventual accounting. It is a form of government most likely to foster personal freedoms, including, usually, freedoms for Christians to practice and propagate their faith. But it has also proved proficient at throwing off a sense of obligation to God the Creator, let alone the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is another way of saying that it is proficient at fostering idolatry.
No one stirs my soul and fills the mind with sweet thoughts and affections for Christ like Jonathan Edwards. He especially loved to wander in the woods contemplating God’s goodness communicated through His creation. Marsden is trying his best to be a dispassionate historian, but it is the nature of his subject that, what Marsden takes care to minimize in himself, shines through all the more brightly in Edwards. My soul is thrilled, reading an academic biography!
Today, as I read, the sun was shining brightly, filled with beauteous light in a clear day. I had to set the book down and glory in the beauty and wonder of Christ.
Edwards was captivated by the idea that God’s purpose in creating the universe is to bring harmonious communications among minds, or spiritual beings, and every detail of physical creation points to that loving reality, epitomized in Christ. In this enthralling framework, he continued his meditation:
When we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ; when we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see his love and purity. So the green trees and fields, and singing of birds, are the emanations of his infinite joy and benignity; the easiness an naturalness of trees and vines [are] shadows of his infinite beauty and loveliness; the crystal rivers and murmuring streams have the footsteps of his sweet grace and bounty. … That beauteous light with which the world is filled in a clear day is a lively shadow of his spotless holiness and happiness, and delight in communicating himself.”
Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George Marsden p. 100