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Do Not Despair
Scripture and a reading from Luther’s sermons and devotional writings

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

“I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you."

John 14:18, RSV

From Luther

We see many pious hearts that are always sad and downcast, tormenting and alarming themselves with their own thoughts, and being on the verge of despair because of the temptations of the devil. Where, say the world and our own flesh, do you find under these circumstances the Holy Spirit whom you Christians laud so much? A Christian should be wise here and not judge things according to his own thoughts and feelings; he should keep to the Word and the comfort of the preaching which the Holy Spirit gives to all poor and distressed hearts and consciences. God does not desire you to be sad or alarmed, but joyful and comforted with the certain promise of his grace, which the Holy Spirit offers you.

Of this promise and comfort to allay our feelings and fears, Christ assures us in the words, “I will not leave you comfortless.” The word translated “comfortless” literally means “orphans.” By the use of the word Christ would intimate the condition of the Church. In the eyes of the world, and even in our own estimation, she has not the appearance of a prosperous and well-ordered organization; rather she is a scattered group of poor, miserable orphans without leader, protection or help upon earth. Misery and fears grow upon one under the influence of the devil’s power, when he pierces the heart with his bitter, poisonous, and murderous thrusts. Then the heart feels that it is not only forsaken by all men, but also by God himself. So it altogether loses Christ and sees no end to its misery. To be left thus, to feel that all things have conspired to leave us comfortless and helpless, is to be left orphans indeed.

As Christ has told his Christians beforehand of suffering, so also does he wish to give them this comfort and consolation beforehand, and desires to teach us not to despair because of suffering, but only to hold to his Word, even if it does seem that help is being too long delayed. He reminds us of the promise that he will not leave us in misery, but will come to us, and desires that we should accord him the highest honor due to God, by holding him to be true and faithful.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 184–85.

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