What is required here is an act of trust. We cannot trust our senses, because they often lie. Rather, we must trust the word of God, whose purpose for us is healing. And this act of faith is never more difficult nor as needed as in the throes of a spiritual dark night, when God seems a million miles away. Faith, Martin Luther taught, means “letting God be God, accepting the scandal of his hiddenness and trusting him in spite of reason, experience, and common sense.”
To support this claim about how God often ministers to us precisely by staying hidden, Luther drew on a number of Old Testament and gospel stories. Joseph sits in an Egyptian jail, desolate and without consolation, betrayed by his brothers, sold to the Egyptians, and incarcerated by his boss. Where is God? “When there is affliction,” says Luther, “we see God from behind; that is, we conclude that God has turned away from us.”
From his own dark nights of the soul, Luther had gained, in the words of M. Vernon Begalke, “A tremendous awareness and acceptance of the basic human condition. Troubled persons could sense in him, a humble fellow-sojourner who experienced many of the same depressive anxieties as they did.
It seems that for Luther, the dark nights of his spiritual life prepared and developed him for his vocation.
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