Those Deleted Tweets

Those Deleted Tweets

Monday night, in the wake of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma, John Piper posted two tweets at 11:00pm (CST). Both tweets quoted the first chapter of Job. He first cited Job 1:19, and then Job 1:20, and they were posted together consecutively:

  • @JohnPiper: “Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead.” Job 1:19
  • @JohnPiper: “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20

Later he decided to take down both tweets.

Many of you may be unaware these tweets appeared online, but some have made what we think is unfair criticism based on misinformation worth briefly addressing.

The impression given by online sources is that only Job 1:19 was posted, an isolated tweet some critics have thought “crude” and “insensitive,” thereby neglecting the most important point made in the second tweet, of Job’s response, and why our sovereign God is still worthy of worship even in the midst of the most unimaginable suffering and personal tragedy.

Job 1:20 not only comes in the direct aftermath of a storm, but also holds out hope and comfort to Christians directly affected by tragedy today, reminding us that trust in God and worship of God are always right, even when we are kneeling in tears in the rubble left by a tornado. Job wept and he worshipped. God’s sovereignty over his suffering provided the basis of his grounds of worshipping God in the suffering (see chapter 1 in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God).

As Pastor John has said in a sermon,

Satan proved to be wrong. Job did not curse God when he lost his wealth and his children. He worshiped and he blessed God. And so the superior worth of God became evident to all.

Job’s steadfast response becomes for all Christians a model to follow in enduring suffering (James 5:11).

Sadly, by citing only the first tweet, Job 1:19, online critics muddied the point.

Why the Tweets Came Down

Different motives were assigned to Pastor John for deleting the tweets. What he told us was this: “The reason I pulled my tweets from Job is that it became clear that what I feel as comfort was not affecting others the same.” He also said,

When tragedy strikes my life, I find it stabilizing and hope-giving to see the stories of the sheer factuality of other’s losses, especially when they endured them the way Job did. Job really grieved. He really agonized. He collapsed to the ground. He wept. He shaved his head. This was, in my mind, a pattern of what must surely happen in Oklahoma. I thought it would help. But when I saw how so many were not experiencing it that way, I took them down.

Whatever final conclusion you draw about the tweets is between you and the Lord. But we wanted to take a moment to address misinformation online as you make your own conclusions on the matter. We appreciate those of you who have come to Pastor John’s defense online, but our sense is that this isn’t a matter worth debating. Our purpose in posting here is simply to provide you with more information.

Weeping with Those Who Weep

At times like this when tragedy strikes, it can be difficult to reconcile how God is sovereign over all calamity, and yet prioritize responses of compassion and weeping with victims of tragedy. You can read and hear how Pastor John reconciles his responses to public natural disasters in an episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast series we released a few weeks ago (see here).

Our prayer at Desiring God for those impacted by the tragedy in Oklahoma City is echoed in Pastor John’s tweet yesterday morning that sought to make explicit from James what was implicit in his Job tweets:

  • @JohnPiper: My hope and prayer for Oklahoma is that the raw realism of Job’s losses will point us all to his God, “compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist at Desiring God, blogger, the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015), and hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Karalee, and their three children.