“Blessings Among the Thorns”
Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
“How could so much have been accomplished through the life of one man?” We marvel how God has brought so many blessings upon his church through the 63 years of the life of a man named Martin Luther (1483-1546). The restoration of the central Bible teaching – justification. The Catechism. The translation of Scripture into the common language of the people. The confessional writings, commentaries, and letters from his pen. The witness of his unflinching demeanor when challenged to surrender the truth.
But something else amazes us. The Reformation blessings came through much hardship – even the deeply personal kind. Martin battled illness with kidney stones. At times he suffered from bouts of depression. Then, too, tragedy struck the Luther family. In this 500th anniversary year, we should note what occurred for Luther and his wife Katie 475 years ago. On September 20, 1542, their fourteen-year-old daughter died.
One month later, Luther wrote to his friend Amsdorf:
I rejoice that she [Magdalena] is living with her Father in sweet sleep until that Day. Moreover, in view of the nature of our times and the prospect of their becoming increasingly worse, I desire from the bottom of my heart that to me and all of mine, and also to you [Amsdorf] and to all of yours, a similar hour of departure be granted, with such great faith and quiet rest. (Plass, What Luther Says, I, p. 382)
In the middle of adversity for Luther and his family, God yielded rose-like blessings among the thorns. When the trials of life came, Luther – like all Christians – went to the sure place for comfort and strength: the immovable Word of God with its sure promises through the work of Christ the Savior. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (12:11).
For each of us today, the same is true. As hard as it is to see blessings when the fog of despair creeps in and the storms of life swirl, we can be certain of a rainbow of blessings peeking through the clouds because of all we have through our Lord Jesus! That is how God often works. He uses what appears disastrous to serve his own purposes for spiritual and eternal good.
“How could so much be accomplished through the life of one Man!”
This time, we are not asking a question, but expressing reverent awe as we think of the One from whom Luther drew strength and of whom he taught: Jesus the crucified for our salvation. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24).
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President