Selected and paraphrased from The Table Talk of Martin Luther, translated by William Hazlitt, 1857, available at: http://www.ccel.org
It is better for a Christian to be sorrowful than secure, as worldly people are. Well is it for him that stands always in fear, yet knows that he has in heaven a gracious God, as the Psalm says: “The Lord’s delight is in them that fear him, and put their trust in his mercy…” No man ought to seek tribulation; but if a cross or tribulation comes upon him, then let him suffer it patiently, and know that it is good and profitable to him… It is impossible for a human heart, without crosses and tribulations, to think upon God. (#631 & 634)
The upright and true Christian has to strive not only against flesh and blood, but also against spiritual wickedness. The spiritual combat is most heavy and dangerous; for flesh and blood can take away only body, wife and children, house, land, and what is temporary; but the spiritual evil can take away the soul, everlasting life, and salvation. (#638)
The life of no human is without discontent. Every one has his own tribulations; and there are many people, who, rather than be without them, will find something to make themselves restless and unhappy. No man is ever content with that which God gives him. (#642)
Ah! how willingly would I now die, for I am faint and diseased, and yet at this time I have a joyful and peaceable heart and conscience. I know full well that as soon as I am again in health, I shall have neither peace nor rest, but sorrow, weariness, and tribulations. But even that great man, St Paul, could not be exempt from tribulations. (#643)
On the 8th of August, 1529, Luther lay sick with a fever. Overwhelmed with dysentery and a dozen other maladies, he said: God has touched me sorely, and I have been impatient. But God knows better than me what purpose this may serve. Our Lord God is like a printer who sets the letters backwards, so that here nothing looks right. But when all is printed off yonder, in the life to come, we shall be able to read everything clearly. In the meantime, we must have patience. The Psalms, in almost every verse, speak of nothing but tribulations, perplexities, sorrows, and troubles. (#645)
When I am assailed with heavy tribulations, I rush out to work among my pigs, rather than remain alone by myself. The human heart is like a millstone in a mill. When you put wheat under it, it turns and grinds and crushes the wheat to flour. But if you put in no wheat, it will still grind on, but then it grinds on itself and wears away. So is the human heart. Unless it is occupied with some employment, it leaves space for the devil, who wriggles himself in, bringing with him a whole host of evil thoughts, temptations, and tribulations, all of which grind away on the heart. (#650)
My tribulations are more necessary for me than meat and drink; and all who feel tribulations ought to accustom themselves to such things, and learn to bear them… Tribulations keep us from pride, and so therefore increase in us the acknowledgment of Christ and of God’s gifts and benefits, to the end that God’s strength may be known in our weakness. (#652)
When the devil plagues us with doubts and troubling thoughts, he can be driven away by no better means than by condemning him; as when one condemns a fierce dog by ignoring him in passing by quietly and without fear. The dog then not only desists from biting, but also from barking. But if in fear one pays attention, and then throws something at the dog, the dog is enraged and will attack and bite. Even so, when the devil sees that we fear him, he increases his efforts to torment and plague us. (#653)
Psalm 116;7-9 — Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
John 16:33 — (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I Peter 5:7 — Cast all your anxiety upon God, because he cares for you.
A prayer for one’s work, especially at the beginning of a new task:
Almighty God, the giver of all things, without whose help all labor is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom is folly, grant, I beseech thee, that in this my undertaking, thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation both of myself and others… Enable me to proceed in this labor, and in the whole task of my present state, that when I shall render up, at the last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. –From two prayers by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)