It can be easy to think of Pastor John as DR. JOHN PIPER. But his heart is tuned primarily to being the pastor of a local church with real people who have real needs.
On July 4, 1995, our son arrived and we knew he would be blind as he had no eyes. On July 5, Pastor Tom Steller, now the Dean of Bethlehem College & Seminary, walked up my front sidewalk with a letter from Pastor John, which I’ve included below. It would also be published in the Bethlehem Star, the weekly church newsletter that was sent to members and regular attenders.
Sadly, in our pain and bitterness and hopelessness and sin-filled pride, we would walk away from Bethlehem just a couple of months later, rejecting both God and the people of God. But, thanks be to God, that would not be the end of the story! And this letter from Pastor John would be one of those building blocks that God used to call us to himself.
Tomorrow, one of the results of Pastor John’s calling on the church to do hard things.
Words of Hope for a Baby Born Blind
Dear John and Diane,
Last night, as I prayed with Noel, you were heavy on my mind. I said, “Lord, O Lord, please let me be a pastor who preaches and leads and loves in a way that makes the impossibilities of life possible for your people by a miracle of sustaining grace. Help me to know the weight and pain of this life and not to be breezy when the mountains have fallen into the sea. Help me to have the aroma of Christ’s sufferings about me. Prevent shallowness and callousness to pain. O Lord make me and my people a burden bearing people.”
O John and Diane, I am so heavy with your child’s sightlessness! God is visiting Bethlehem with such pain these days in the birth of broken children. Randy and Ann Erickson with their baby’s broken heart; Jan and Rob Barrett with their baby’s liver outside the body; and your precious little one! Is the Lord saying, “I have a gift for your community.” This is not one or two or three couples’ burden. This is a gift and call to the whole church. This is a word concerning the brokenness of this fallen age of futility. This is an invitation for you all to believe that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14). This is an invitation for you to “count every gain as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). This is a shocking test to see if you will “lose heart” when in fact God’s purpose is to show that his grace is sufficient to renew our inner person every day to deal with the “slight momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
O Lord, open our eyes to your love in this pain. Open our eyes. “Then Elisha prayed, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). John and Diane, the mountains surrounding your lives are filled with the horses and chariots of God. Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upperhand here. God is at work in ways and for years and generations and millions of people that we cannot now imagine. This is ours to believe and to bear, no matter the cost. This is ours for this short life.
It seems to me that this life is a proving ground for the kingdom to come. Some are asked to devote forty or fifty years to caring for a handicapped child instead of breezing through life without pain. Others are asked to be blind all their lives…
But only in this life – ONLY in this life. I want to be the kind person who makes that “ONLY” what it really is – very short. Prelude to the infinity of joy, joy, joy. But not yet. Not entirely.
How will we ever cope with the burdens of this life if we believe this is all there is, or even the main act in this drama of reality? O Lord, give us your view of things.
May God fill you with anticipated joy.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
I love you,