John Bunyan, Suffering, and the Sovereignty of God

A believer in Christ can learn from the life of John Bunyan regarding suffering and the various hardships that this life may bring. He was born in England in 1628, which was the same year William Laud became bishop of London. Bishop Laud opposed reforms to the Church of England that the Puritans advocated for and of which Bunyan was in the same theological vein. Bunyan was known as a tinker who worked in various trades because of his father. At an early age, he lost his mother, sister, and was drafted into the Parliamentary Army to fight against the King. During his early life, Bunyan was not a believer and he indulged in many ungodly things. He was married around the age of 21 and his wife introduced him to 2 books that shaped his life. Within the first 5 years of marriage, Bunyan was converted to Christ while reflecting on the thought “Thy righteousness is in Heaven” (see When I Don’t Desire God, Piper, pgs. 90-91). Bunyan’s conversion is similar to Luther’s in which they were struck with the greatness of God. Ten years after Bunyan was married to his first wife, she died in 1658 that left him to care for their 4 children. A year following, Bunyan met Elizabeth and they married. A year into their marriage, Bunyan was thrown into prison while Elizabeth was pregnant with their firstborn. She miscarried because of the crisis and Elizabeth cared for his 4 children while Bunyan was imprisoned. He was released in 1672 and died years later in 1688.

Through Bunyan’s life and suffering, he affected the church in a variety of positive ways. Bunyan’s writing was clearly marked by his struggles. He showed how to deal with hardship in his book Pilgrim’s Progress and other works while reminding Christians that we glorify God in the hardship. When Christians suffer, we are able to rest in the sufficiency of God. Bunyan’s life can teach Christians how to rest in the sovereignty of God and be used by God in suffering. Since Bunyan suffered imprisonment and persecution, he was able to shepherd his flock and set an example through his own suffering. He loved his people that he was called to care for, he knew pain, and he labored faithfully in his pastoral duties for his local congregation. Bunyan understood that his suffering was appointed by God and it comes about for His glory.

Christians can learn from the life of John Bunyan and his wife Elizabeth that one must rely on God alone. While John was imprisoned, persecuted and facing other trials, he rested upon God. When John was in prison, Elizabeth had to rest upon God alone while taking care of 4 children. They took courage in Christ and were grateful that they could suffer for his name. When we look at the lives of the Bunyan’s, we must recognize that we must be prepared to suffer for Christ as well. When the trial comes, the Christian is able to look to Jesus and live upon God alone.

We only get one life and it will soon pass. What is done for Christ will last!

Evan Knies is an elder at North Hills Church in West Monroe, LA. He is the husband of Lauren and father to Maesyn. He is graduate of Boyce College and Southern Seminary.

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