A Thousand Sorrows Teaches a Man to Preach

Carson, Keller, Piper Discuss How Suffering Prepares a Pastor

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“A thousand sorrows teaches a man to preach,” tweeted John Piper.

After admitting his “ingrown tendency to complexify” and emphasizing that the Bible itself prepares a man to preach, The Gospel Coalition president Don Carson agrees that suffering does play a role as well. “Suffering—but also joys—are part of human experience that enable us to interact with people more knowledgeably,” Carson says. “All of that with time,” Carson adds, “must give us more depth, more penetration, more affective elements in our preaching.”

Tim Keller, TGC vice president, shares a story of a young man in his church who worked as an X-ray technician. Only after going through the experience as a patient did he realize how impatient he was with others. Keller sees a similar tendency among preachers who only after going through the “furnace” learn to minister with an appropriate humble tone and demeanor.

Quoting Psalm 119:71 (“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes”), TGC Council member John Piper wants to draw attention to this “hermeneutical device” of suffering as means to more fully knowing—what Luther referred to as tentatio (testing, inward turmoil), one of his three marks of a theologian. According to Luther,

This is the touchstone. It teaches you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is: it is wisdom supreme. . . . For as soon as God’s Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real [theologian] of you.

Watch the full 12-minute video to hear these three leaders discuss how pastoring sets up your preaching, why mortification is a form of suffering, how the loss of a sense of entitlement in American Christianity is a good thing, and more.