Suffering—physical, emotional, spiritual

11 05 2010

Suffering produces endurance‘ (Romans 5:3)

We all learn to endure a certain amount of physical pain. Some people seem tougher, and have a higher pain threshold than others. However, physical suffering does more than just ‘hurt’. It often has far wider affects upon a person. It affects one’s emotions, which in turn can deeply affect one’s spiritual well-being, and responsiveness to God.

When we read of the sufferings of others, whom we admire, it often helps us reflect more with-faith, upon our own battles.  For example, we learn of Martin Luther, that he suffered from excruciating kidney stones and headaches, with buzzing in his ears and ear infections and incapacitating constipation and hemorrhoids.

This physical pain affected his emotional state, and—in the inter-connectedness of all things—it affected him spiritually, too. In writing to his friend, Philip Melanchthon, Luther wrote the following:

“For more than a week I have been thrown back and forth in death and Hell; my whole body feels beaten, my limbs are still trembling. I almost lost Christ completely, driven about on the waves and storms of despair and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercession of the faithful, God began to take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell” (Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, p. 323).

Again, Luther wrote to Melanchthon from Wartburg castle on July 13, 1521 while he was supposedly working feverishly on the translation of the New Testament:

“I sit here at ease, hardened and unfeeling—alas! praying little, grieving little for the Church of God, burning rather in the fierce fires of my untamed flesh. It comes to this: I should be afire in the spirit; in reality I am afire in the flesh, with lust, laziness, idleness, sleepiness. It is perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from me…. For the last eight days I have written nothing, nor prayed nor studied, partly from self-indulgence, partly from another vexatious handicap [constipation and piles]…. I really cannot stand it any longer…. Pray for me, I beg you, for in my seclusion here I am submerged in sins” (E.G. Rupp and Benjamin Drewery, eds, Martin Luther: Documents of Modern History, pp. 72-73).

* These helpful insights are John Piper’s written up in The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, Crossway Books, 2000, p. 104-105. I have here, imparted his work, not my own. I greatly appreciate John’s gems, such as this, which he keeps opening to us!








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