Reading Time: 2 mins

Clarity Under the Cross

Reading Time: 2 mins

The love of God in Christ Jesus never changes. That love is for you.

Theologus in cribo Satanae tentatus. “A theologian tested in Satan’s sieve.” What does that look like? Maybe that looks like Job. All of his wealth disappears in a day. Notice he receives this news in a matter of moments. Four messengers come to Job, one after the other. “While he was still speaking…” repeated with each new message: attackers, fire, raiders, a windstorm. Flocks, herds, family: all gone in an instant. His friends will blame him; his wife will tell him to curse God and die already. Of course, that will only happen after his health fails, too. In the midst of it all, Job “fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:20-22). Even in the sieve of Satan, the theologian clings to God’s Word and promise.

Job’s story reminds me of Paul Gerhardt. He survives the Thirty Years’ War with all its famine, bloodshed, and death. Those armies destroy his hometown when he is away at school studying theology. He does not receive his first call into parish ministry until he is 45. A few years later, he moves to a large congregation in Berlin. He marries and is blessed with children. The congregation flourishes, and they are eager to hear the gospel. Then, a new prince takes over who does not share his confession. The prince removes the popular preacher from his church. Four of Gerhardt’s children die and his wife dies a short time later. This is why Gerhardt received the moniker: Theologus in cribo Satanae tentatus and wrote a hymn, If God Himself Be for Me (TLH 528). These are a few of the final stanzas:

Who clings with resolution To Him whom Satan hates
Must look for persecution; For him the burden waits
Of mockery, shame, and losses, Heaped on his blameless head;
A thousand plagues and crosses Will be his daily bread.

From me this is not hidden, Yet I am not afraid;
I leave my cares, as bidden, To whom my vows were paid.
Though life and limb it cost me And everything I won,
Unshaken shall I trust Thee And cleave to Thee alone.


This may be your story, too. Few of us will be tested with suffering like Job or Gerhardt, and praise Jesus for that! We know Satan was at work behind the scenes with Job. How often aren’t his forces at work behind the scenes for the rest of us, too? We all know suffering and the cross. While the stanzas above give us a glimpse of Job and Gerhardt on a good day, read a little further in Job, and you’ll see the worship and praise changes to lament. I’m sure Gerhardt had his sorrowful days, too. During suffering, your emotions can swing wildly, even from moment to moment. Your strength will wax and wane, ebb and flow as well. Even faith will waver sometimes: Can I be so confident of God’s love and care? 

But here’s what doesn’t change: the love of God, which proved its strength and commitment to you by taking on flesh to live and die at the cross for your salvation. The love of God in Christ Jesus never changes. That love is for you. Such is God’s promise. Such is God’s Word. Now, be the theologian! Be a theologian of the Word. Be a theologian of the cross. Even in the sieve of Satan, that theologian clings to God’s Word and promise. That theologian will not be disappointed and will never be put to shame.