By Mark Ellis
He is one of the most influential pastors, authors, and theologians in America. Recently he shocked an interviewer by revealing that he and his wife had deep struggles in their marriage, but corporate worship played a decisive role in changing John Piper’s attitude toward his wife.
“I think I’m still married because of corporate worship,” Piper told Pastor C.J. Mahaney and an audience of pastors at the 2016 Sovereign Grace Churches Pastors Conference held in late October.
“What do you mean by that?” a stunned Mahaney asked, momentarily taken aback. Mahaney leads a Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville.
“Noel and I would have periodic, real struggles, not communicating, hurting each other with our words, feeling hopeless that we could be happy,” Piper confessed. John and his wife, Noel, have been married since 1968, have five grown children and numerous grandchildren.
Undoubtedly, many at the conference had no idea about Piper’s marital struggles.
“I would go to church under those awful conditions and I’m supposed to preach,” Piper continued.
But when God inhabits the praise of His people, hearts soften and a renewed perspective emerges.
“In those moments of singing about His greatness and His mercy — the gospel — I would generally be melted and I would feel hope,” Piper told the other pastors.
As his spirit connected vertically with God, a shift took place in his mind. What an idiot, he thought to himself, that I would make so much out of that (situation with his wife).
“That would happen repeatedly in song, in corporate worship,” he told Mahaney. As God increased, Piper was humbled and renewed hope emerged. “God struck me down with hope. With hope he struck me down.”
As he worshipped, Piper gained a more realistic picture of his own condition. You proud, arrogant, selfish jerk, he concluded about his attitudes toward Noel.
The power of the Gospel brought real change. “Then He picked me up, enabled me to preach and go home and press on.”
“We are quite happy today, by the way,” Piper said. “These are good days.”
“Corporate worship is one of the best remedies for our sin-sick souls,” Piper noted. “Without fail, trials and troubles renew every week. Big or small, they draw our gaze away from Jesus and distract us from God’s amazing mercy and grace. Instead of resting in the gospel, we frantically look elsewhere for help.”
Worship refreshed Piper’s soul. “Every Sunday morning is an opportunity for God to revive you from the week’s stupor. As you proclaim his goodness and mercy with dear brothers and sisters, God will melt your heart again.
“He will strike down your pride with the gospel, but he won’t leave you down. In his mercy, he’ll pick you up and give you strength for the week ahead.”