Thursday, June 11, 2009

Assailed by the Old Evil Foe

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther:

Good friends have told me that the old evil Foe is severely assailing you with weariness of life and a longing for death.... You know that we should and must be obedient to God and must carefully guard against disobeying His will. Since you are sure-and it must be obvious to you-that God gives you life, your thoughts should yield to this divine will, and you should gladly obey it and not doubt that such ideas, being disobedient to God's will, are certainly shot and sent into your heart by the devil. Therefore you must firmly resist them and be determined to tear them from your heart or to endure them.

Life was sour and bitter also for our Lord Christ; yet He would not die without His Father's will and, when able to do so, fled death and preserved His life, saying: "My time is not yet come" (John 7:6). And Elijah, Jonah, and other prophets clamored and cried for death, very painfully impatient of life, and cursed the day of their birth and their life. Yet they had to live and bear this disgust with all their strength or weakness until their hour came (1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:3; Jer. 20:14).... When the arrows of the devil are lodged so deeply, they cannot be extracted with laughter and without labor; one must pull them out by force. Therefore you must take heart and courage against yourself and must say with anger at yourself: No, my fellow, no matter how tired you may be of life, live you should and must; for so my God wills it, so I want it to be. Away to the bottom of hell, you diabolical thoughts of dying and death, you have no business here. Grit your teeth against such thoughts. Obedient to God's will, be hardheaded and more stubborn and obstinate than any bad peasant or woman, nay, harder than any anvil or iron.

If in this way you take yourself in hand and fight against yourself, God will surely help you. But if you do not resist or put up a defense, if you rather allow such thoughts all the leisure and freedom to plague you, then you have soon lost the battle.

But the best of all remedies is not to become involved in a struggle with such thoughts at all but to be able to despise them, to act as if you never felt them, constantly to think of something else, and say to them: Come now, devil, do not disturb me. I am unable to pursue such thoughts now. I must ride, drive, eat, drink, do this or that. Or: I must be cheerful now; come some other day, etc. Say this, and undertake to do whatever else you may, playing, and the like, just to ignore such ideas freely and thoroughly and send them on their way.

Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §728, 244.

photocredit: practicalowl

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