Tuesday, June 18, 2019

To What Intent Does God Afflict Us With Sickness? by Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Sihler

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This short paper, "To What Intent Does God Afflict Us With Sickness?", is an excellent, brief resource that addresses common questions surrounding the reality of suffering and God's omnipotence. The PDF of the work is provided by 1580 Press, a site where one can find many other L-TOMs and other Lutheran works. I believe 1580 Press is run by Nathan Higgins.

Sihler was an important figure in the formation of the Missouri Synod and the establishment of the Fort Wayne Seminary. For a article on his life and work, see "Professor Wilhelm Sihler: Founding Father of Lutheranism in America and First President of Concordia Theological Seminary" by Lewis Spitz Jr.

In this brief paper, Sihler directly confronts the often troubling truth that God sends sickness to both unbelievers and believers. Straightforward assertion of the truth and childlike trust in the Word and promises of God are hallmarks of Missourian writing--especially from this era. And on this front, Sihler does not disappoint. When discussing God sending sicknesses to unbelievers, he writes: 

"In short, God’s gracious design in afflicting unbelievers with disease aims at making them come to thoroughly, by the demands and curses of His law and the disciplinary punishment of sickness, that they might experience the burden and curse of their sins greatly and attain with a broken spirit and a contrite heart to true repentance."

And, when tackling the afflictions of Christians, Sihler states:

"But with believers, with His dear children in Christ, God aims at a different object by visiting them with sickness. For them it is not a punishment, but a wholesome chastisement, a means of paternal training for the purpose of maintaining them also thereby, in connection with His Word, in repentance, faith and new obedience."

Need to Get: 10/10

For both pastors and laymen, I cannot recommend this work highly enough. I have printed it out or sent it to countless parishioners, friends, and loved ones. It is direct, clear, and brief. It offers great comfort...because it's message is built on the Truth.

Note on Translation: A brief note at the end of the PDF from 1580 Press states:

“To What Intent Does God Afflict Us With Sickness” by Rev. Dr. W. Sihler is here reprinted from The Lutheran Witness, July 7, 1883, Volume 2, Number 4, pages 31-32. Note: While no translator is expressly indicated, the article ends both with a reference to Zeit- und Gelegen-heitsPredigten, pages 28-32, and the initials of The Lutheran Witness’s editor, C. A. Frank, in brackets.

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