An Early Artists Impression of “Anfechtung” – The oppressed lying in bed with friends standing by while demons and imps torment and tease and recite all manners of sins and vices. One even has a white board presentation.
Winston Churchill called it the black dog. C.F.W. Walther the first president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had it so bad his congregation packed him up and sent him to Germany on a slow boat for a vacation. Luther had it so bad at one time he told his friends had it not abated when it did he honestly believed that he would have died. Luther called it “anfectung” which has no English equivalent. But if one reads the history books about these gentlemen it seems that they were suffering from what we today call clinical depression. Luther believed it was an actual physical, mental, attack by the devil. In a society where people run to therapists and counselors because they’re worried their friends are talking bad about them behind their back, or that they won’t be invited to the latest and newest concert, we might have a hard time grasping what Churchill and Walther and Luther went through. For those who suffer from true clinical depression they will tell you that no amount of counseling, talking, joking, helps. Even the concern of friends sometimes makes matters worse which reminds me of Job. The three friends who came to visit him are worse than useless. The youngest of his counselors, the fourth, Elihu seemed to help some because he called for repentance, but Job was suffering from something that came from God and could only be fixed by God.
Everything seems dark and gloomy say those who experience this malady. It is as if everything is slipping away. Luther believed that the only way he was snatched out of it was because of the prayers of his friends. He was convinced that it was a spiritual and physical assault of the devil and who can say that is not the case. If the followers of Jesus trust his mercy and grace they must also remember that “the old Satanic foe still means deadly woe”. He know he is lost and wants to reap destruction. He wants the followers of Christ to be in the shadowlands.
There will be sadness and sorrow. The sentiments of Bedford in Henry VI at the death of Henry V are well taken. “hung be the heavens with black”. Yet we believe that the Sun of Righteousness will arise and take us “from this vale of tears to himself”. Until then – pray for one another.
In his mortal state he needs the vision of immortality. Job felt thwarted and frustrated. He looked for God but could not find Him. He could not share the conviction of the psalmist that God was always available (46: 1). In sheer disappointment he insisted that God should set up a schedule of office hours, “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, And why do those who know Him never see His days?” (24:1) Job was not the only one for whom the office doors seemed locked. When the dy-ing groaned, God did not hear; when the murderer waylaid the poor, God did not seem to care; when the godless waxed strong, God gave them life and security (24: 12,14,22). With these others Job went forward, but God was not there; he went backward, but he could not see God.