Warfield's Supernatural Patience

It takes supernatural power to be patient. That’s why Paul seems to go over the top in how he prays for our patience:

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:11)

But that glorious might makes its way into our attitudes by means of promises that we believe. Like Romans 8:28.

Benjamin B. Warfield was a world-renowned theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary for almost 34 years until his death on February 16, 1921. Many people are aware of his famous books, like The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. But what most people don’t know is that in 1876, at the age of twenty-five, he married Annie Kinkead and took a honeymoon to Germany. During a fierce storm Annie was struck by lightning and permanently paralyzed. After caring for her for thirty-nine years Warfield laid her to rest in 1915. Because of her extraordinary needs, Warfield seldom left his home for more than two hours at a time during all those years of marriage. (Great Leaders of the Christian Church, 344.)

Now here was a shattered dream. I recall saying to my wife the week before we married, “If we have a car accident on our honeymoon, and you are disfigured or paralyzed, I will keep my vows, ‘for better or for worse.’” But for Warfield it actually happened. She was never healed.

Unlike the story of Joseph who suffered but then became vice president of Egypt, there was no kingship in Egypt at the end of Warfield’s story—only the spectacular patience and faithfulness of one man to one woman through thirty-eight years of what was never planned—at least, not planned by man.

But when Warfield came to write his thoughts on Romans 8:28, he said,

The fundamental thought is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favour of God to those that love Him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good.... Though we are too weak to help ourselves and too blind to ask for what we need, and can only groan in unformed longings, He is the author in us of these very longings...and He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us. (Faith and Life, 204)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.