Contrary to the “prosperity gospel” and other theologies of glory, negative experiences can also have a positive spiritual significance. Many of us go through depression, blue moods, black moods, and other sufferings, whether physical or emotional. These are not signs that you have lost your faith or that God has abandoned you.
Luther, who knew these states of mind well, considered them important for the Christian life. In fact, he considered them necessary for anyone who presumed to be a theologian, the three attributes for that office being meditation, prayer, and tentatio–struggle, trial, assault–the closest he could come in Latin to the untranslatable German word Anfechtung.
In looking for a good description of Anfechtung for that Bach post I wrote recently, I came across “A Primer on Anfechtung” by LCMS pastor Paul R. Harris. It’s worth looking at for its own sake and for what it discloses about a state of anguish that can seem devastating–especially since Christians seldom talk about it today–but which can draw us closer to Christ. [Read more…]