Note: You’re reading Part 2 of a blog mini-series sharing Quotes of Note derived from my Ph.D. dissertation: Spiritual Care in Historical Perspective: Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Read Part 1.
In Part 1, we enjoyed quotes regarding Luther’s ministry of biblical sustaining: bringing people God’s comfort by empathizing with their suffering. Foremost in this process was helping people to turn their eyes to the cross of Christ and the Christ of the cross.
Having turned people to Christ for His infinite comfort, Luther then became “Jesus with skin on” by empathizing with his hurting spiritual friends.
Participation in Suffering: I Suffer with You
“I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I might become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for his holy Word . . .” (LSC, p. 31).
“So I pray that the Lord will make me sick in your place.” (LSC, p. 48).
“We must support one another and be supported” (LSC, p. 40).
“I know that your trials contribute to the glory of God and to your profit and that of many others. I, too, suffered from such trials, and at the time I had nobody to console me. When I complained about such spiritual assaults to my good Staupitz, he replied, ‘I don’t understand this; I know nothing about it.’ You now have the advantage that you can come to me, to Philip (Melanchthon), or to Cordatus to seek comfort . . . .” (LW, Vol. 54, pp. 132-133).
“Accordingly we all are deeply grieved by his death . . . As is natural, your son’s death, and the report of it, will distress and grieve your heart and that of your wife, since you are his parents. I do not blame you for this, for all of us—I in particular—are stricken with sorrow” (LW, Vol. 50, p. 51).
Permission to Grieve
“It is quite inconceivable that you should not be mourning. In fact, it would not be encouraging to learn that a father and mother are not grieved over the death of their son. The wise man, Jesus Sirach, says this in ch. 22: ‘Weep for the dead, for light hath failed him . . .’” (LSC, p. 61).
“Grace and peace. My dear Ambrose: I am not so inhuman that I cannot appreciate how deeply the death of Margaret distresses you. For the great and godly affection which binds a husband to his wife is so strong that it cannot easily be shaken off, and this feeling of sorrow is not so displeasing to God . . . since it is an expression of what God has assuredly implanted in you. Nor would I account you a man, to say nothing of a good husband, if you could at once throw off your grief” (LSC, p. 62).
“Grace and peace in Christ. My dear Cordatus: May Christ comfort you in this sorrow and affliction of yours. Who else can soothe such a grief? I can easily believe what you write, for I too have had experience of such a calamity, which comes to a father’s heart sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the marrow, etc. But you ought to remember that it is not to be marvelled at if he, who is more truly and properly a father than you were, preferred for his own glory that your son—nay, rather his son—should be with him rather than with you, for he is safer there than here. But all of this is vain, a story that falls on deaf ears, when your grief is so new. I therefore yield to your sorrows. Greater and better men than we are have given way to grief and are not blamed for it” (LSC, p. 60).
“When I asked him about the passage in which Jeremiah cursed the day in which he had been born and suggested that such impatience was a sin, he (Martin Luther) replied, ‘Sometimes one has to wake up our Lord God with such words. Otherwise he doesn’t hear. It is a case of real murmuring on the part of Jeremiah. Christ spoke in this way. ‘How long am I to be with you?’ (Mark 9:19). Moses went so far as to throw his keys at our Lord God’s feet when he asked, ‘Did I conceive all this people?’ (Num. 11:12).’ Accordingly it is only speculative theologians who condemn such impatience and recommend patience. If they get down to the realm of practice, they will be aware of this” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 30-31).
“The Scriptures do not prohibit mourning and grieving over deceased children. On the contrary, we have many examples of godly patriarchs and kings who mournfully bewailed the death of their sons. At the same time you ought to leave room for consolation” (LSC, p. 67).
Comfort in Community: Do Not Grieve Alone
“‘He’s gnawing at his own heart, said Luther. ‘I, too, often suffer from severe trials and sorrows. At such times I seek the fellowship of men, for the humblest maid has often comforted me. A man doesn’t have control of himself when he is downcast and alone, even if he is well equipped with a knowledge of the Scriptures. It is not for nothing that Christ gathers his church around the Word and the sacraments and around prayer and hymns and is unwilling to let these be hidden in a corner. Away with monks and hermits! These are inventions of Satan because they exist apart from all the godly ordinances and arrangements of God. According to the plan of creation every man is either a domestic or a political or an ecclesiastical person. Outside of these ordinances he is not a man, unless he is miraculously exempted. Accordingly a solitary life should be avoided as much as possible’” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 268).
“Thereupon he entreated Weller to cultivate the company of men when he is afflicted with such melancholy and not live alone. ‘Woe to him who is alone,’ the preacher says (Eccles. 4:10). When I’m morose I flee above all from solitude” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 276).
“Be very careful not to leave your husband alone for a single moment, and leave nothing lying about with which he might harm himself. Solitude is poison to him. For this reason the devil drives him to it” (LSC, p. 91).
“This is my only and best advice: Don’t remain alone when you are assailed! Flee solitude!” (LSA, p. 277).
“Seek the company of others who may be able to rejoice with Your Grace in a godly and honorable way. For solitude and melancholy are poisonous and fatal to all people, and especially to a young man. No one realizes how much harm it does a young person to avoid pleasure and cultivate solitude and sadness” (LSC, p. 93).
“All Christians truly are of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except to office. Paul says in I Corinthians 12 that we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. This is because we all have one baptism, one gospel, and faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian people” (LW, Vol. 44, p. 127).
The Rest of the Story
In Part 3, we’ll see how Luther, having first turned empathized with and comforted others, next encouraged others to find Christ’s healing hope.
Join the Conversation
Which of today’s Quotes of Note impact your life and ministry the most?
Note: These quotes are derived from Spiritual Care in Historical Perspective: Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. The entire 212-page dissertation is available in PDF form at the RPM Store.