From the Word
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
John 16:20, RSV
This is said to all Christians, for every Christian must have temptations, trials, anxieties, adversities, sorrows, come what may. Therefore Christ mentions here no particular sorrow, nor trial, he simply says they shall weep, lament and be sorrowful, for the Christian has many persecutions. Some suffer loss of goods; there are others whose character suffers ignominy and scorn; some are drowned, others are burned; one perishes in this manner and another in that; it is the lot of the Christian constantly to suffer misfortune and adversity. This is the rod with which they are chastised. This is their court color by which the Christian is recognized, and if he wants to be a Christian, he dare not be ashamed of his livery.
No one need lay his cross upon himself, as some foolish persons have done and are still doing. They even court prison and death, saying: Since Christ of his own free will entered death, I will follow him in his example, as he commanded us to do. Such people do not understand divine things, they think they will suddenly enter death with Christ, whom they have never learned to know except in words. Thus was Peter also disposed, but he stood before Christ like a rabbit before one beating a drum. The old Adam lacks courage under the cross. The new man, however, can persevere through grace. Pious persons have no aim of their own in suffering, but if it be God’s will they bear good fruit like a tree planted by the streams of water. This is pleasing to God, since all presumption and show are condemned. He who battles heroically will receive joy for his suffering, the eternal in place of the temporal.
But why does God permit his own to be persecuted and hounded? In order to subdue the free will, that it may not seek an expedient in works; all serves to the end that we should accustom ourselves to build alone upon Christ, and to depend upon no other work, upon no other creature, whether in heaven or upon earth. But on this account we must suffer much. We must not only suffer shame and persecution, but the world rejoices at our great misfortunes. But this comfort we have that their joy shall not last long, and our sorrow shall be turned into eternal joy.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 181–82.