From the Word
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34:19–22, RSV
God kindly sends upon his Christians temptation, sorrow and affliction. These preserve them from carnal satiety and teach them to seek comfort and help. God did thus also in former ages, in the time of the martyrs, when he daily suffered them to be violently seized in person and put to death by sword, fire, blood and wild beasts. In this way he truly led his people to school, where they were obliged to learn to know his will. Faith taught them and confirmed to them that such suffering was God’s purpose and immutable will concerning themselves, which, whatever attitude towards them he might assume, he could not alter, even as he could not in the case of Christ himself. This discipline and experience of faith strengthened the martyrs and soon accustomed them to suffering, enabling them to go to their death with joy and pleasure.
What noble and enlightened, what strong and courageous people God produced by the discipline of cross and affliction! We, in contrast, because unwilling to experience such suffering, are weak and enervated. If but a little smoke gets into our eyes, our joy and courage are gone, likewise our perception of God’s will, and we can only raise a loud lamentation and cry of woe. Just so Christ’s disciples in the ship, when they saw the tempest approach and the waves beat over the vessel, quite forgot, in their trembling and terror, the divine will, although Christ was present with them. So also in the time of the martyrs, many Christians became timid and at first denied Christ from fear of torture or of long confinement in prison.
It is God’s will that we, too, should learn to accustom ourselves to these things through temptation and affliction, though these be hard to bear and the heart is prone to become agitated and utter its cry of woe. We can quiet our disturbed hearts, saying: I know what is God’s thought, his counsel and will in Christ, which he will not alter: he has promised me through his Son, and confirmed it through my baptism, that he who hears and sees the Son shall be delivered from sin and death, and live eternally. The heart possessing such knowledge is kindled by the Holy Spirit and armed against the flesh, the world and the devil.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 368–69.