Suffering Makes a Theologian

Photo by   Pixabay   from   Pexels

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

As we have been studying our way through 1 Peter, we’ve found that a large portion of the letter deals with the theme of suffering in the life of the Christian. In particular, Peter so boldly declares that suffering can actually be a blessing.

Martin Luther, in his second series of lectures on the Psalms, reflects on the making of a theologian:

I want to point out to you a correct way of studying theology, for I have had practice in that. If you keep to it you will become so learned that you yourself could (if it were necessary) write books just as good as those of the fathers and councils…. This is the way taught by holy King David (and doubtlessly used also by all the patriarchs and prophets) in Psalm 119. There you will find three rules, amply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are oratio, meditatio, tentatio [prayer, meditation, temptation].

Luther goes on to discuss both prayer and meditation. However, I want to focus today on the third rule of becoming a theologian: tentatio.

Thirdly, there is tentatio, Anfechtung. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.

Thus you see how David, in the Psalm mentioned, complains so often about all kinds of enemies, arrogant princes or tyrants, false spirits and factions, who he must tolerate because he meditates, that is, because he is occupied with God’s word (as has been said) in all manner of ways. For as soon as God’s word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you, and will make a real doctor of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s word. I myself (if you will permit me, mere mouse-dirt, to be mingled with pepper) am deeply indebted to my papists through the devil’s raging they have beaten, oppressed, and distressed me so much. That is to say, they have made a fairly good theologian of me, which I would not have become otherwise. And I heartily grant them what they have won in return for making this of me — honour, victory, and triumph — for that’s the way they wanted it.

It is not understanding, reading or speculation, but living — no, dying and being damned — that makes a theologian.

Suffering can be seen as blessing because through it we come to know and understand God (aka theology) in a way that we wouldn’t have without it. Suffering can be seen as blessing because it brings us to the end of ourselves and, when we arrive there, we find the loving arms of a savior who knows well the full extent of suffering.

Christ is sufficient.