The Tentatio of Family Plans

Understatement of the world: Life is hard.

We’re constantly warring against the devil, our sinful flesh and non-Christian views.  And we lose most of the time. No. . .apart from Christ, every time.

So is it any wonder why barren Christian couples worry and despair? Or those who’ve miscarried, delivered stillborns, or await seemingly endless months and years to adopt?  Life is hard. And with no guarantees of receiving children, longsuffering, it seems, becomes a part of who we are.

“Wait.” you might posit, “What about the good times of life? The feelings and states of contentment, peace and well-being?”  And you’d be good to ask that.  After all, even though we suffer, God is gracious to bestow on us these gifts, too.  However, our ability to recognize God’s many gifts might not be in the way we’d expect.

Luther points out that the devil and his enemies draw us ever closer to God. You read that correctly. . .the devil AND his enemies. He called it tentatio, or, spiritual affliction, trial, and temptation, which actually aids to drive us away from our selves and to God’s promises alone.

In Luther’s personal struggles against the Roman Catholic Church he stated his gratitude for his enemies: “For I myself…must be very thankful to my papists for pummeling, pressing, and terrifying me; that is, for making me a fairly good theologian, for otherwise I would not have become one…”(Doberstein, 288).

Today, those who would question us couples on our family size, or causes for why you and your spouse might be in the state you’re in is not a far cry from what Luther is talking about here.  These outside pressures and our own thoughts seem to constantly attack us; that is, until we realize that the blessing of children is simply not in our hands. And, by these very assaults, right theology begins to take shape.

Luther goes on to say that even the devil is of much use to our souls’ well-being:

The devil is used by God against his own evil purpose. “As soon as a person meditates and is occupied with God’s Word; as soon as God’s Word begins to take root in and grow in him, the devil harries him with much conflict, bitter contradiction, and blatant opposition. But these assaults (Anfechtungen) prove to be spiritually counterproductive, for by driving him to the end of his tether, they teach him ‘to seek and love God’s Word’ as the source of all his strength and being. In such a situation of temptation, he experiences for himself the power and truth of God’s Word. Temptation turns the student of God’s Word into a real theologian, because it exercises and reinforces his faith in Christ. He experiences the power of God’s Word in his own weakness. Paradoxically, he sees the presence of God and his grace most fully displayed under its apparent negation in adversity and trouble. Because he bears the word of Christ in himself, he must also bear the cross for it. But, as he bears his own cross, he gets to know himself and Christ whose glory was revealed by his death on the cross.” (Kleinig, “The Kindled Heart”, 147).

It should be no surprise that in weakness we find strength.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ demonstrated that on the cross for our salvation.  As Christ not only claims our souls but OUR BODIES in baptism, we are new creations that bear witness to the redemption of the world. Especially and EVEN as we suffer.  Barreness, miscarraige, stillbirth, adoption difficulties become our crosses. But they are also our blessings that drive us straight to Jesus.

What consolation we have! That no matter what afflictions we endure, the Holy Spirit is tirelessly drawing us unto Christ through God’s Word and our baptisms, which proclaim “NO” to death,the devil, and our sins and “YES” to forgiveness, life eternal and salvation through Jesus.

Moreso, how much closer a God can we have when we partake of Him each Lord’s Day in His Supper?  The very body and blood of Christ given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins and strengthening of our faith?  This truly is the peace that passes all understanding.

Life IS hard. And this side of heaven, it will not relent.  Nevertheless, as we trudge this weary trail together, God is making us theologians of His cross, so that we might be consoled to life everlasting; whereby in our death, tentatio will die, every tear will be wiped away, and we will live with Him in everlasting peace and blessedness.  Thanks be to the ever living, Triune God!

Works Cited:

Kleinig, John. “The Kindled Heart” Lutheran Theological Journal (August-November 1 9 86), 142- 154.

Notes on “Pastoral Formation: Oratio, Meditation, Tentatio,” by Professor John T. Pless found here:

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