#51 Suffering and Crosses are No Match for the Christ

Therefore we know that we can quite rightly bid defiance and say: Even though there were ten popes or Turkish emperors, I would like to see whether all of them together are a match for the Man who is called Christ. They may very well start a game which will grow too big for them to handle, but they will not demolish the Word. And this will happen even though we are weak in faith.

This then is the true art, that in suffering and cross we should look to the Word and the comforting assurance, and trust them, even as He said, “In me you shall have peace, but in the world, tribulation” [cf. John 16:33]. It is as if he were saying: Danger and terror will surely hit you if you accept my Word; but let it come, this will happen to you because of me. So be of good cheer; I will not forsake you, I will be with you and will help you. No matter how great the affliction may be, it will be small and light for you, if you are able to draw such thoughts from the Word of God. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.205)

#50 Give Yourself to Scripture And All Will Be Better

If you give yourself to Scripture, you will feel comfort and all your concerns will be better, which otherwise you cannot control by any act or means of your own. After all, a merchant can bring himself, for the sake of gaining money and wealth, to leave house and home, wife and child, and risk his life for the sake of filthy lucre, and still have no sure promise or assurance that he will return home in health to wife and child; and yet he is foolhardy and rash enough to venture boldly into such danger without any promise whatsoever. Now, if a merchant can do that for money and riches, fie upon you, that we should not want to bear a little cross and still want to be Christians, even though besides we have in our hands the tree to which we cling against the waves, namely, the Word and the fine strong promises that we shall not be overwhelmed by the waves….

Now if the merchant … can muster up such courage to take upon himself … and suffer such peril, effort, and labor, we should be simply ashamed that we rebel against suffering and the cross, even though we know, in the first place, that God has appointed that we should suffer and that it cannot be otherwise. In the second place, we also know our promise and assurance, that, even though we are not such good Christians as we ought to be and are timid and weak both in life and faith, He will nevertheless defend his Word simply because it is his Word. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.204-205)

#49 The Christian Art of Suffering

For this is the Christian art, which we must all learn, the art of looking to the Word and looking away from all the trouble and suffering that lies upon us and weighs us down. But the flesh is utterly incapable of this art, it sees no farther than the present suffering. For this also is the way of the devil; he removes the Word far from one’s eyes, so that one sees nothing but the present difficulty, just as he is doing with us now. What he wants is that we should deny and forget the Word altogether and gaze only at the danger which threatens us from the pope and the Turks. Then if he wins the play, he drowns us in the difficulty, so that we see nothing but its rush and roar. But this should not be. For this is what happens: when a person wants to be a Christian and acts according to his feelings, he soon loses Christ. Drive the suffering and cross from your heart and mind as quickly as you can; otherwise if you think about it for long the evil grows worse. If you have affliction and suffering, say: I have myself not chosen and prepared this cross; it is because of the Word of God that I am suffering and that I have and teach Christ. So let it be in God’s name. I will let him take care of it and fight it out who long ago foretold that I should have this suffering and promised me his divine and gracious help. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.203-204)

#48 Christ Strengthens Us in Our Suffering

So it is with all other things; when it gets going it becomes too heavy, whether it be sin, devil, hell, or even our own conscience. But how are we going to do it? Where shall we go and hide ourselves? For us it looks as if the whole thing would fall to the ground. But on the other side they are confident and proud; they think they already have won the day. I too see the good Christopher sinking; nevertheless he gets through, for he has a tree which he holds on to. This tree is the promise that Christ will do something remarkable with our suffering. “In the world,” he says, “you shall have afflictions and tribulations, but in me you shall have peace” [cf. John 16:33]. And St. Paul says, “We have a faithful God who helps us out of affliction, so that we can bear it” [cf. I Cor. 10:13]. These sayings are staves, yea, trees, which we can hold on to and let the waters roar and foam as they will.

So in Christopher we have an example and a picture that can strengthen us in our suffering and teach us that fear and trembling is not as great as the comfort and the promise, and that we should therefore know that in this life we shall have no rest if we are bearing Christ, but rather that in affliction we should turn our eyes away from the present suffering to the consolation and promise. Then we will learn that what Christ says is true: “In me you shall have peace” [John 16:33]. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.203)

2nd Tim. 4, v. 7-8. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#47 At First Being a Christian is Easy, Then Over Our Head

How goes it then with him? This way: when a man accepts the faith, he does not allow himself to think of it as something burdensome. He thinks of it as being like a little child, which is beautiful and well-formed and easy to carry, as Christopher found. For at first the gospel looks like a fine, pleasant, and childlike teaching; as we saw at the beginning, when it started everybody got cracking and wanted to be an Evangelical. There was such a yearning and thirst for it that no oven is as hot as the people were then. But what happened? The same thing that happened with Christopher. He did not find out how heavy the child was until he got into the deep water.

So it was with the gospel; when it began to take hold the waves rolled out and pope, bishops, princes, and the crazy rabble set themselves against it. Then we first began to feel how heavy the child is to carry. For it came so dose to the good Christopher that he came very near to drowning. As you see, the same thing is happening now; on the other side which is against the Word there are so many tricks and stratagems, so much deceit and cunning, everything aimed at one purpose, to drown us in the water. There is such threatening and terror that we would be frightened to death if we did not have another consolation to oppose to it.

All right then, anybody who has taken upon himself the burden of the Christ, the beloved child, must either carry him all the way across the water or drown; there is no middle way. It’s no good to drown; therefore we’ll go through the water with the Christ, even though it looks again as though we would have to stay in it. After all, we have the promise that he who has Christ and relies and believes on him can boldly say with David in Ps. 27 [:3], “Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet will I be confident.” Let them paw and stamp their feet, let them threaten and frighten as they please, were the water never so deep we shall nevertheless go through it with Christ. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.202-203)

Psal. 34, v. 8 (7)  “The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#46 The Legend of St. Christopher, A Christ-Bearer

St. Christopher was a man of significant physical stature. Christopher decided one day that he wanted to serve the greatest king he could. He presented himself before his local ruler and entered service, until he noticed the king cross himself at the mention of the devil, revealing that the king believed the Devil to have more power. St. Christopher then decided to serve the Devil. During his search, he encountered a band of thieves, whose leader referred to himself as the Devil. But when this leader avoided a Christian cross out of fear, St. Christopher learned there was someone even more powerful than the Devil.

St. Christopher found a hermit who taught him all about Christ, the King of Kings. The hermit suggested that he spend his life in prayer and fasting, a thing which St. Christopher, a large and probably often hungry man found difficult, he objected. The hermit suggested he then find something else that would please Christ. St. Christopher offered to work at a nearby river, and help travelers across. The fording was dangerous and many with less strength people had drowned. The hermit advised St. Christopher this would please Christ.

One day, a child approached St. Christopher by the river and asked to be helped across. St. Christopher obliged. However, as he entered midstream, the river rose and the child’s weight grew and became extremely heavy. It was only by great exertion that St. Christopher safely delivered the child to the other side. When St. Christopher asked the child why he was so heavy, the child explained that He was the Christ and when St. Christopher carried Him, he also carried the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. The child then vanished.

[Picture:  St. Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, by Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1485)]

#45 The Example of St. Christopher, A Christ-Bearer

So it is, as we see, that they cannot endure even the small afflictions. But when the big, strong afflictions occur, they despair altogether, destroy themselves, or they want to jump out of their skin because the whole world has become too cramped for them. Likewise they cannot observe moderation either in fortune or misfortune. When things go well, they are the most wanton, defiant, and arrogant people you can find. When things go wrong, they are utterly shattered and despondent, more than any woman; as we see those who are now pawing and bridling and bragging and boasting were so timid and nervous during the peasant uprising that they hardly knew where to go. So it must be when one does not have the promises and God’s Word. But Christians have their consolation even in the worst of suffering and misfortune.

But in order that you may better understand this, I will give you a fine example in which the Christian’s suffering is depicted. All of you are doubtless familiar with the way in which St. Christopher has at times been portrayed. [For those not familiar, next week I will include the legend of St. Christopher.]But you should not think that there ever was a man who was called by that name or who actually did what is said about St. Christopher. Rather the person who devised this legend or fable was without a doubt a fine intelligent man, who wanted to portray this picture for the simple people so that they would have an example and image of a Christian life and how it should be lived. And actually he did hit it off very well; for a Christian is like a great giant, he has great strong legs and arms, as Christopher is painted, for he bears a burden which the whole world, which no emperor, king, nor prince could carry. Therefore every Christian is a Christopher, that is, a Christ-bearer, because he accepts the faith. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.201-202)

2nd Tim.  1, v. 14 : That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.. 

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#44 When Suffering Give Your Greatest Attention to the Promise

So in our suffering we should so act that we give our greatest attention to the promise, in order that our cross and affliction may be turned to good, to something which we could never have asked or thought. And this is precisely the thing which makes a difference between the Christian’s suffering and afflictions and those of all other men. For other people also have their afflictions, cross, and misfortune, just as they also have their times when they can sit in the rose garden and employ their good fortune and their goods as they please. But when they run into affliction and suffering, they have nothing to comfort them, for they do not have the mighty promises and the confidence in God which Christians have. Therefore they cannot comfort themselves with the assurance that God will help them to bear the affliction, much less can they count on it that he will turn their affliction and suffering to good. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.201)

2nd Tim.  3, v. 14 :  But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#43 The Cause of Our Suffering is Not Sin, But Holding to the Word of God

Moreover, the cause of our suffering is the same as that for which all the saints have suffered from the beginning. Of course the whole world must bear witness that we are not suffering because of public scandal or vice, such as adultery, fornication, murder, etc. Rather we suffer because we hold to the Word of God, preach it, hear it, learn it, and practice it. And since this is the cause of our suffering, so let it always be; we have the same promise and the same cause for suffering which all the saints have always had. So we too can comfort ourselves with the same promise and cling to it in our suffering and tribulation, as is highly necessary. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.200-201)

Apoc. 14 v. 6.7 [2nd Chronika / Chronicles]
I saw an angel fly in the midst of the hill, which had an everlasting Gospel to announce, who sits and dwells on earth and speaks with great pleasure, fear God and pray in the glory.

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]

#42 Suffering Works for A Christian’s Good and Advantage

Furthermore, every Christian should submit himself to this suffering that he is sure that it will work for his good and that Christ, for his Word’s sake, will not only help us to bear this suffering but also turn and transform it to our advantage. And again what makes this cross more agreeable and bearable for us is the fact that our dear God is ready to pour so many refreshing aromatics and cordials into our hearts that we are able to bear all our afflictions and tribulations, just as St. Paul says in I Cor. 10 [:13], “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” This is true. When the suffering and affliction is at its worst, it bears and presses down so grievously that one thinks he can endure no more and must surely perish. But then if you can think of Christ, the faithful God will come and will help you, as he has always helped his own from the beginning of the world; for he is the same God as he always has been. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.200)

Gesetz Stab Moses des Treibers.
Es.   9. v. 4 “The hearders staff of Moses.”
Der Hüter Israels schläfft noch Schlummert nicht.
Psal. 121, v. 4. “The keeper of Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

[All of the pictures for this year’s posts are from an etching entitled “Augsburg Confession” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) and found in the Royal Collection Trust.]