Luther's Prescription for Despondency - Article and Comment
Luther's Prescription for Despondency
December 16, 2010
by: Michael Johnson
Luther once said, “I have my worst temptations when I am by myself.”
Roland Bainton comments in Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, 285 (paragraphing mine):
Seek out some Christian brother, some wise counselor. Undergird yourself with the fellowship of the church. Then, too, seek convivial company, feminine company, dine, dance, joke, and sing. Make yourself eat and drink even though food may be very distasteful. Fasting is the very worst expedient.
Once Luther gave three rules for dispelling despondency: the first is faith in Christ; the second is to get downright angry; the third is the love of a woman.
Music was especially commended. The Devil hates it because he cannot endure gaiety. Luther’s physician relates that on one occasion he came with some friends for a musical soiree only to find Luther in a swoon; but when the others struck up the song, he was soon one of the party. Home life was a comfort and a diversion. So also was the presence of his wife when the Devil assaulted him in the night watches . . . Manual labor was a relief. A good way, counseled Luther, to exorcise the Devil is to harness the horse and spread manure on the fields.
In all this advice to flee the fray Luther was in a way prescribing faith as a cure for the lack of faith.
I really can relate to this story and it is also a great encouragement to me. I was raised in the Lutheran Church, and of course, Martin Luther was always hailed as a great man of God (which he was). After reading about Luther here and in other places, I can also relate to him as a human being. He struggled with many things, and always tended to go extreme at first and then after a bit, he would level out. He had severe emotions, thoughts, and struggles. He fought hard against the flesh and struggled to cling to the Spirit. His war with the devil was fierce. When Luther got despondent, brother, he got despondent! When he got angry, he got angry! When he was happy, he probably was the happiest man on earth. I can relate to that. It is also in my fallen nature to over or under extend application of the Word of God and have severe struggles. I think that sometimes because of the weighty truths in the Bible, we can forget to enjoy ourselves from time to time. Another reason I think that we don't occasionally seek friendly company, feminine company (wife), dining, dancing, joking, and singing is because of the drunken orgies that America is participating in. I think that we at times go to the other extreme and fall into despondency and gloominess when in many ways we have a great reason to hope, be happy, and have peace.
I also have found great peace and comfort in working outside and with my hands. I have a college degree, but am working a job that doesn't require one. I love it because I am outside, and I do physical labor most of the time. I can testify of this truth. For those that have an office job, it is essential that you work out, jog, or do something that involves physical activity. I have a friend who works at a bank, but he is probably in better physical shape than I am because he lifts weights and runs. It is amazing how purging the body will rid you of those evil urges that come. Apparently it was good for Luther.