“Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life?” This is the question that @JohnPiper so authoritatively and persuasively answers affirmatively in A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God. It is a question that a lot of people are asking today. Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth in the Old Testament, asked the same question when she found herself a widow, living in a foreign country (having fled there to escape a famine in her own country) with her two widowed and childless daughters-in-law. With unemployment at record highs, a looming national healthcare crisis in the U.S., violence in many parts of the world, and millions around the world suffering the catastrophic consequences of floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis, most of the world can sympathize with Naomi when she says, “the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” While most do not, indeed cannot, see the sovereign hand of God in their difficult circumstances, the difficulty of their circumstances is undeniable. Piper’s thesis is this: “When you think he is farthest away from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to him, he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life.” For those who have experienced suffering (or are experiencing it now), Piper demonstrates God’s sovereignty to be a warm blanket to their troubled souls. Referring to 2004’s Indian Ocean tsunami and a missionary who lost his wife and daughter when his plane was shot down by the Peruvian Air Force in 2001, Piper reflects:
“We will see from the story of Ruth and from the cross of Christ that in this life our hope in the next depends on God’s reign over all things. It may be hard to embrace when the pain is great, but far worse would be the weakness of God and his inability to stop the blowing of the wind and the flight of a bullet.”
The book of Ruth is a beautiful love story, with many wide-ranging implications for our lives today. Piper tells the story brilliantly and draws out ramifications for our lives in seven specific areas: the Scriptures, sexual purity, biblical manhood and womanhood, ethnic diversity, the sovereignty of God, risk-taking love, and the glory of Christ.