C. F. W. Walther had his fair share of hardships throughout his life, and he openly preached to his parishioners about the challenges Christians face on earth. Today we read an excerpt from an essay about Walther and affliction that was published in C. F. W. Walther: Churchman and Theologian, 200th Anniversary Commemoration.
During spiritual hardships and temptations, Christians ask God in their prayers for help—but sometimes He remains silent and does not answer. Someone becomes desperate because he does not feel the joy and relief of being a Christian. Believers are tempted to improve their lives on their own by doing something against the Word of God and they are afflicted because of the diversity of teaching in the different religious groups. And finally, members of a Christian congregation may be afflicted by imperfection of their faith and Christian life and the fear that one is not allowed to come to Jesus Christ before having become a better person. Dealing with this, Walther probably has always thought about his own afflictions when he was a student, when exactly that was his problem. And finally, the worst affliction and temptation for a Christian is the fear to lose Jesus Christ or, even worse, to find in the Holy Scripture only proofs for the fact that you are hopelessly lost and there is no way to get back to God.
It is a basic insight of Walther’s sermons that no one can overcome affliction without the help of God. That’s why the fight in and against affliction cannot be fought with human means but only with the instruments God is providing.
The first of these instruments is the Word of God. For Walther, the words “It is written” are the most effective weapon against all afflictions and tribulations. God’s Word is comparable with a light that guides you through the night and leads you to the other side. Even more than that, Walther is frequently alluding to using the Word of God like a fortress with a surrounding wall that protects a Christian against all the powers of his enemy. And even in times when someone thinks that God’s Word is standing against him, he needs to use the Gospel of Jesus Christ against all other understandings of the Word of God to find finally comfort and peace. This word is a solid fundament of faith—even if the feelings do not make someone certain concerning his state of grace.
After clinging to the Word of God, C. F. W. Walther mentions persistent prayer as another way to overcome affliction and tribulation. Even if it seems that God does not hear his prayers, a Christian should be confident that God actually does hear, as He has promised in His Word. The one who keeps on praying and believing that God is listening to his prayers will not get lost in those times of affliction.
And finally, Christian fellowship also serves as a means to overcome affliction and temptation. Using the example of Thomas in the Gospel of St. John, C. F. W. Walther shows how a man who does not stay with the other disciples falls into temptation and doubts. And another thing you can discover in this story is how the testimony among the disciples strengthens their faith.
Devotional reading is adapted from C. F. W. Walther: Churchman and Theologian, 200th Anniversary Commemoration, pages 11–13 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord Jesus, we humbly pray You not to forsake us in these dangerous times, not to deal with us according to our sins nor to reward us according to our iniquities. Give the thunder of Your Law power to terrify the secure and the balm of Your Gospel power to soothe and strengthen the faint hearts. Cause Your Church to grow also among us until You will come to deliver Your own. Oh, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and forever put an end to all misery and woe. Hear us for Your own sake. Amen.
Prayer is adapted from For the Life of the Church, pages 63–64 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.