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The delusion of personal autonomy

By Dave Henning / November 30, 2018

“Physical suffering exposes the delusion of personal autonomy and self-sufficiency.  If you and I had the kind of control that we fall into thinking we have, none of us would ever go through anything difficult. . . .  Independence is a delusion that is quickly exposed by suffering.”- Paul David Tripp

In Chapter 1 (“The Day My Life Changed”) of Suffering, Paul David Tripp begins with his sudden onset of acute kidney failure.  Six operations in two years followed diagnosis.  And in his initial shock and confusion, Pastor Tripp cried out for God’s help.  also, he grabbed hold of God’s promises.  Because Paul believed in God’s goodness, he did everything he could to run toward that goodness.  Not away from it.

However, Pastor Tripp notes, it’s impossible to go through suffering without questioning what God is doing.  In addition, it’s tempting to doubt God’s wisdom, goodness, and love.  Therefore, the author found himself confronted with this reality.  Much of his perceived faith in Christ turned out to be pride in his ability to produce.  Pastor Tripp explains:

“Suffering has the power to expose what you have been trusting all along.  If you lose hope . . . maybe your hope wasn’t in your Savior after all.  It was humbling to confess that what I thought was faith was actually self-reliance.”

Furthermore, the author asserts, suffering is never abstract, theoretical, or impersonal.  Rather, suffering is real, tangible, and specific.  Thus, the Bible never downplays the harsh experiences of life in our horribly broken world.  As a result, the Bible forces us to forsake our denial and move toward humble honesty.

In conclusion, Pastor Tripp underscores that, while the Bible’s dramatically honest about suffering, it’s also gloriously hopeful.  The author exhorts:

“Because of the amazing, practical wisdom of God’s Word, the glory and presence and power, and the reality of mercies that are new every morning, we do not have to run from this topic.  We can stare it in the face with open and expectant hearts.  So with gospel courage read on, knowing that there is no valley of suffering so deep that God’s grace in Jesus isn’t deeper.”

Today’s question: How has the delusion of personal autonomy impacted your life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our suffering – never neutral”

About the author

Dave Henning


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