“Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that god can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.” – John Piper
Reading about David Brainerd provoked a myriad of feelings. Primarily; awe, shame and hope. His story was such a comfort to me. I hope it is to you too.
Brainerd was born into a family where everybody was almost always depressed. He was extremely melancholic; constantly depressed on and off. By the time he turned fourteen, he had lost both parents. His siblings also died early in life, the one who lived the longest died at the age of thirty-four.
Like me, he quarreled with God within his soul (I doubt my quarrelling was as great as his though). Like many of us, his religion was initially legalistic and effort based. He was mad that there was nothing he could do within his strength to commend himself to God and this is something I still struggle with. I’mma be like “God, where do I come in?” and God be like “You never ever come in”.
It is difficult to process that nothing is about you and your life is not your own. You don’t even own anything. You don’t control anything. You’re just a…pawn. A pawn for Jesus. Halleluiah, somebody?
Like all of us, Brainerd had his own struggles. He struggled with relentless sickness, immense poverty and loneliness. He wished for community, for people who understood him, for people with whom he could share his thoughts. He rarely found that. He struggled to love. He struggled to be true to his calling. If anything, he was a professional hassler. He would have loved my blog.
He was easily discouraged but he did not wait for perfect conditions to do what God called him to do. He did not wait till God answered all his questions. He did not wait till all his needs were met. He did not ask “Why me? Why me?” for too long. He was a missionary and he went ahead preaching because preaching is what missionaries do. He was a writer and he wrote because writing is what writers do. He did not loiter on his heavenly journey and when he died at 29, he had lived a life so short but so impactful.
He lived so well that he was fundamental to the creation of Princeton and Dartmouth Colleges. A century or two later, his life is still documented in a book that has never been out of print. A century or two later, many people still look upon him with awe, many are still encouraged by how he lived. He did more in death than he did in life. What a legacy.
So, this is the summary:
God specializes in using our failures and Brainerd is proof of that.
God specializes in using weak, broken, hassling people and Brainerd is proof of that.
Don’t wait till you become a ‘man of God’ and all your problems go away. Live your life fully. Do what you have been called to do. Never tire of chasing the darkness. Fall seven times and rise up eight. Never loiter on your heavenly journey.
And, to read a concise free eBook about the life of David Brainerd, visit Desiring God.