Tag Archives: Grief

“Christ is the True Hero and I shall cling to Him” by Martin Luther

“Dear mother,

You know the real basis and foundation of your salvation, on which you must rest your confidence in this and all troubles, namely Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

He will not waver or fail us, nor allow us to sink and perish, for He is the Saviour and is called the Saviour of all poor sinners, of all who face tribulation and death, of all who rely on Him and call on His name.

He says, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If He has overcome the world, surely He has overcome the prince of this world with all His power. And what is His power but death, with which He has made us subject to Him, captives on account of our sin?

But now that death and sin are overcome, we may joyfully and cheerfully listen to the sweet words, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

And we must not doubt that they are certainly true. More than that, we are commanded to accept their comfort with joy and thanksgiving.

Whoever is unwilling to be comforted by these words does the greatest injustice and dishonor to the Comforter— as if it were not true that He bids us to be of good cheer, or as if it were not true that He has overcome the world.

If we act thus, we only restore within ourselves the tyranny of the vanquished devil, sin, and death, and we oppose the dear Saviour. From this may God preserve us!

Therefore, let us rejoice with all assurance and gladness. Should any thought of sin or death frighten us, let us lift up our hearts and say:

“Behold, dear soul, what are you doing? Dear death, dear sin, how is it that you are alive and terrify me? Do you not know that you have been overcome?

Do you, death, not know that you are quite dead? Do you not know the One who has said of you, I have overcome the world?

It does not behoove me to listen to or heed your terrifying suggestions. I shall pay attention only to the cheering words of my Saviour, ‘Be of good cheer, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’

He is the Conqueror, the true Hero, who in these words, ‘Be of good cheer,’ gives me the benefit of his victory. I shall cling to Him.

To His words and comfort I shall hold fast. Whether I remain here or go yonder, He will not forsake me.

You would like to deceive me with your false terrors, and with your lying thoughts you would like to tear me away from such a Conqueror and Saviour.

But they are lies, as surely as it is true that He has overcome you and commanded us to be comforted.”

This is also the boast of Saint Paul and his defiance of the terrors of death:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ (1 Cor. 15:55)

Like a wooden image of death, you can terrify and frighten, but you have no power to destroy. For your victory, sting, and power have been swallowed up in Christ’s victory.

You can show your teeth, but you cannot bite. For God has given us the victory over you through Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks. Amen.’

With such words and thoughts, and with none other, you may set your heart at rest, dear mother.

Be thankful that God has brought you to such knowledge and not allowed you to remain in papal error, by which we were taught to rely on our own works and the holiness of the monks and to consider this only comfort of ours, our Saviour, not as a comforter but as a severe judge and tyrant, so that we could only flee from Him to Mary and the saints and not expect of Him any grace or comfort.

But now we know differently about the unfathomable goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

We now know that Jesus Christ is our mediator, our throne of grace, and our bishop before God in heaven, who daily intercedes for us and reconciles all who call upon and believe in Him.

We now know that He is not a grim judge, except to those who do not believe in Him and who reject His comfort and grace.

We now know that He is not the Man who accuses and threatens us, but rather that He intercedes for and reconciles us by His own death, having shed His blood for us in order that we might not fear Him but approach Him with all assurance and call Him our dear Saviour, our sweet Comforter, the true Bishop of our souls.”

–Martin Luther, “To Mrs. John Luther, (May 20, 1531),” Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 34-35.

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“I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself” by Martin Luther

“To my dear father, John Luther, citizen in the valley of Mansfeld:

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Dear Father:

My brother James has written me that you are seriously ill. As the weather is bad and the season dangerous, I am very anxious about you, for though God has given you a strong, tough body, yet your age and the inclemency of the weather give me disquieting thoughts.

None of us is, or should be, sure of his life at any time. I should have come to you personally with the greatest willingness, but my good friends advised me against it and have persuaded me not to, and I myself thought it better not to tempt God by putting myself in peril, for you know how lords and peasants feel toward me.

It would be the greatest joy to me if it were possible for you and mother to come hither, which my Katie and all of us beg with tears that you will do. I hope we are able to take good care of you.

Therefore I am sending Cyriac to see whether your weakness will allow you to be moved.

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it would be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again and with filial piety and service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the Fourth Commandment.

In the meantime I pray from the bottom of my heart that our Father, who has made you my father, will strengthen you according to His immeasurable kindness and enlighten and protect you with His Spirit, so that you may receive with joy and thanksgiving the blessed teaching of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to which doctrine you have now been called and to which you have come out of the former terrible darkness and error.

And I hope that His grace, which has given you such knowledge, and thereby begun His work in you, will guard and complete it to the end of this life and to the joyous hereafter of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God has already sealed this teaching and faith in you and has testified to it by such marks as that you have suffered much slander, abuse, obloquy, mockery, scorn, hatred, and odium for His name’s sake, as we all have done. These are the true marks of our likeness to the Lord Christ, as Paul says, that we may be like Him also in future glory.

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us and now sits in heaven with all His angels, looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground.

He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us, and He is so heartily true and kind that He cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask His help without doubting.

He has said, promised, and pledged this. He will not and cannot lie; of that we are certain.

“Ask,” says he, “and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) And elsewhere: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)

The whole Psalter is full of such comforting promises, especially Ps. 91, which is particularly good to read to the sick.

I wish to write this to you because I am anxious about your illness (for we know not the hour), that I may become a participant of your faith, temptation, consolation, and thanks to God for His holy Word, which He has richly and graciously given us at this time.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy vale of tears, to see and hear sorrow and help other Christians to suffer and conquer, He will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently.

This life, cursed by sin, is nothing but a vale of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels. Nor is there respite or cessation this side of the grave. Beyond is repose, and we can then sleep in the rest Christ gives us until He comes again to wake us with joy. Amen.

I commend you to Him who loves you more than you love yourself.

He has proved His love in taking your sins upon Himself and paying for them with His blood, as He tells you by the gospel.

He has given you grace to believe by His Spirit, and has prepared and accomplished everything most surely, so that you need not care or fear any more, but only keep your heart strong and reliant on His Word and faith.

If you do that, let Him care for the rest. He will see to it that everything turns out well. Indeed, He has already done this better than we can conceive.

May our dear Lord and Saviour be with you so that, God willing, we may see each other, either here or yonder. For our faith is certain, and we doubt not that we shall shortly see each other in the presence of Christ.

Our departure from this life is a smaller thing to God than my journey would be from here to Mansfeld or yours from Mansfeld to Wittenberg. It is only an hour’s sleep, and after that all will be different. This is most certainly true.

I hope that your pastor and preacher will point out such things to you in faithful service, and so you will not need what I say at all. Yet I write to ask forgiveness for my bodily absence, which, God knows, causes me heartfelt sorrow.

My Katie, little Hans, Magdalene, Aunt Lena, and all my household send you greetings and pray for you faithfully. Greet my dear mother and all my friends.

God’s grace and strength be and abide with you forever. Amen.

Your loving son,

Martin Luther
February 15, 1530.”

–Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Ed. and Trans. Theodore G. Tappert, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1955/2006), 30-32.

[John Luther, Martin’s father, died on May 29, 1530, three months after this letter of consolation was written. On June 5, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “John Reineck wrote me today that my beloved father, the senior Hans Luther, departed this life at one o’clock on Exaudi Sunday. This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strong in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem.” (30)]

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“My books are my true company” by Herman Bavinck

“By way of chronology, Unink’s death occurred within weeks of Arie den Dekker’s most recent (wordless) rejection of Bavinck’s suitorship for his daughter.

These were lonely and difficult days for Bavinck: at twenty-nine years old he lived with his parents, saw no immediate prospect of marriage, and, following Unink’s untimely death, had few friends close at hand.

These circumstances set the scene for a comment made in a subsequent letter to the dying Johan van Haselen that typifies the phase into which his life was moving: ‘My books are my true company.’

Barred from pursuing Amelia, bereft of Unink, and with the likes of Snouck Hurgronje and Henry Dosker only accessible by letter, Bavinck surrounded himself with new conversation partners.

In the prime of life, his closest companions became a group of long-dead theologians.”

–James Eglinton, Bavinck: A Critical Biography (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2020), 142-143.

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“Death may deprive of dear friends, but it can’t deprive us of our best friend” by Jonathan Edwards

“Now, Madam, let us consider what suitable provision God has made for our consolation under all our afflictions in giving us a Redeemer of such glory and such love, especially when it is considered what were the ends of that great manifestation of His beauty and love in His death.

He suffered that we might be delivered. His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, to take away the sting of sorrow and that we might have everlasting consolation.

He was oppressed and afflicted that we might be supported. He was overwhelmed in the darkness of death and of hell, that we might have the light of life.

He was cast into the furnace of God’s wrath, that we might swim in the rivers of pleasure. His heart was overwhelmed in a flood of sorrow and anguish, that our hearts might be filled and overwhelmed with a flood of eternal joy.

And now let it be considered what circumstances our Redeemer now is in. He was dead but is alive, and He lives forevermore.

Death may deprive of dear friends, but it can’t deprive us of this, our best friend. And we have this friend, this mighty Redeemer, to go to under all affliction, who is not one that can’t be touched with the feeling of our afflictions, He having suffered far greater sorrows than we ever have done.

And if we are vitally united to Him, the union can never be broken; it will remain when we die and when heaven and earth are dissolved. Therefore, in this we may be confident, we need not fear though the earth be removed.

In Him we may triumph with everlasting joy; even when storms and tempests arise we may have resort to Him who is a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest.

When we are thirsty, we may come to Him who is as rivers of waters in a dry place.

When we are weary, we may go to Him who is as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

Having found Him who is as the apple tree among the trees of the wood, we may sit under His shadow with great delight and His fruit may be sweet to our taste.

Christ told his disciples that in the world they should have trouble, but says He, ‘In Me ye shall have peace.’ If we are united to Him, our souls will be like a tree planted by a river that never dieth.

He will be our light in darkness and our morning star that is a bright harbinger of day. And in a little while, He will arise on our souls as the sun in full glory. And our sun shall no more go down, and there shall be no interposing cloud, no veil on His face or on our hearts, but the Lord shall be our everlasting light and our Redeemer, our glory.

That this glorious Redeemer would manifest his glory and love to you, and apply the little that has been said of these things to your consolation in all your affliction, and abundantly reward your generous favors, as when I was at Kittery, is the fervent prayer of, Madam, your Ladyship’s most obliged and affectionate friend,

And most humble servant,

Jonathan Edwards.”

–Jonathan Edwards, Letters and Personal Writings (ed. George S. Claghorn and Harry S. Stout; Vol. 16; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1998), 16: 418–419. Edwards wrote this letter from Stockbridge to Lady Pepperrell on November 28, 1751, to console her on the loss of her son.

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“To be irradiated by the light of His countenance” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“The inheritance of the saints in glory, the immediate communion with God, the life of beholding Him, to be satisfied with the Lord’s all-sufficiency, to be irradiated by the light of His countenance, to be embraced by His love, to be surrounded by His omnipotence, to be filled with His goodness, even to shine forth in pure holiness, to be aflame with love, to be incomprehensibly joyful in God, to be among the angels, to be in the company of the souls of the most perfectly righteous men, and while being in His immediate presence, together with them behold and experience the perfections of the Lord, and thus magnify and praise these perfections — that is felicity and that is glory.

To be united with one’s own and yet glorified body; to be conformed to the glorious body of Christ; to stand at the right hand of King Jesus in view of the entire world — particularly of those who have tortured and killed them; there, according to soul and body, to be glorified and crowned as conqueror; to be ushered into heaven by the Lord Jesus and there to eternally experience undiminished fulness of joy without end and without fear —all this is the great benefit which the Lord has laid away for all those who fear Him and put their trust in Him before the sons of men.

Attentively consider the following passage:

‘After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number…stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;…What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed eat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:9, 13-17).

Now compare all your suffering and all that is glorious and delightful upon earth with this eternal and felicitous glory, and you will not be able to make a mental comparison, since the difference is too great. Would this then not cause you to rejoice in your suffering? Will this not make you courageous in the warfare in which, by the power of God, the victory is sure and the crown a certainty?

View the Lord Jesus from every perspective. He is so eminently glorious that it is our greatest glory to confess Him as our Lord and King. We are therefore not to be ashamed of Him. God the Father makes confession about Him by declaring from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’

The angels bore witness to Him at His death and resurrection — yes, all angels worship Him. How boldly and joyously have all martyrs professed Him and sealed their profession with their death!

Would you then be ashamed of Him? Is He not worthy of a measure of suffering? He is worthy a thousand times to be professed by you while suffering in some measure. How much good has He done for you!

Out of love for you He left His glory, took upon Himself your human nature, doing so in the form of a servant, became poor so that He had nothing upon which He could lay His head, and took upon Himself your sins and put Himself in your stead as Surety.

How heavy a task it was for Him to deliver you from eternal damnation, to reconcile you with God, and to lead you to glory! God’s wrath upon sin caused Him to crawl over the earth as a worm and to wallow in His own blood — blood coming forth as sweat due to the hellish agony within His soul.

He was betrayed, shackled as an evildoer, and led away captive. The ecclesiastical authorities judged Him worthy of death as a blasphemer of God. He was beaten with fists, and they spat in His blessed countenance.

He was smitten in the face, and He was mocked in a most contemptuous and grievous manner. He was delivered to the Gentiles, dragged from the one court to the other, led along the streets of Jerusalem with a robe of mockery, placed on a duo with a murderer, and had His death demanded as if He were the most wicked among the people.

He was scourged in a most wretched manner and crowned with a crown of thorns, which was pounded into His head with sticks. He was led outside the city while bearing His cross, and died on the cross in the greatest distress of soul while suffering the most extreme measure of scorn and pain.

All this He suffered out of love for you in order to deliver you from sin and damnation. He made a good profession, namely, that He was the King and the Savior — a confession which cost Him His life.

Would you now be ashamed of Him and deny Him? Would you not suffer somewhat for this loving and loveable Jesus, and not show by your suffering how dear and precious He is to you?”

–Wilhelmus à Brakel, “A Letter of Exhortation to Be Steadfast in the Confession of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Truth in Time of Persecution and Martyrdom,” The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 3, Ed. Joel Beeke, Trans. Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1994), 3: 370-371.

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“There is not a drop of wrath in a riverful of a believer’s grief” by Charles Spurgeon

“I do not know of any reflection more consoling than this: that my sorrow is not laid on me by a judge, nor inflicted on me as the result of divine anger. There is not a drop of wrath in a riverful of a believer’s grief.

Does not that take the bitterness out of affliction and make it sweet? And then the reflection goes further. Since Christ has died for me, I am God’s dear child; and now if I suffer, all my suffering comes from my Father’s hand—nay, more, from my Father’s heart.

He loves me, and therefore makes me suffer; not because He does not love, but because He does love He does thus afflict me. In every stripe I see another token of paternal love. This it is to sweeten Marah’s waters indeed.

Then will come the next reflection—that a Father’s love is joined with infinite wisdom, and that, therefore, every ingredient in the bitter cup is measured out drop by drop, and grain by grain, and there is not one pang too many ever suffered by an heir of heaven.

The cross is not only weighed to the pound but to the ounce, ay, to the lowest conceivable grain. You shall not have one half a drop of grief more than is absolutely needful for your good and God’s glory.

And does not this also sweeten the cross, that it is laid on us by infinite wisdom, and by a Father’s hand.

Ravishing, indeed, is the reflection in the midst of all our grief and suffering, that Jesus Christ suffers with us. In all thine affliction, O member of the body, the Head is still a sharer.

Deep are the sympathies of the Redeemer, acute, certain, quick, infallible; He never forgets His saints.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Marah; Or, the Bitter Waters Sweetened,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Volume 17 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1871), 17: 236–237.

[HT: Bobby Jamieson]

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“Arise, arise” by George Herbert

“Arise, arise;
And with His burial-linen dry thine eyes:
Christ left His grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears, or blood, not want an handkerchief.”

–George Herbert, from ‘The Dawning” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 131.

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