Let everyone know most assuredly and not doubt that God does not send him this distress to destroy him.…He wants to drive him to pray, to implore, to fight, to exercise his faith, to learn another aspect of God’s person than before, to accustom himself to do battle even with the devil and with sin, and by the grace of God to be victorious. Without this experience we could never learn the meaning of faith, the Word, Spirit, grace, sin, death, or the devil. (LW 14:60)
Luther says God “drives” us to pray. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the last year had driven us to pray. Everything seemed to fall apart. The center couldn’t hold and what held us together as tenuous as it was, seemed to fall and fail. It was a year of questioning motives and tactics and faithfulness. It was a time of prayer as well because many times it was all we had. We had taken from us, or some would say, we gave up, the mutual consolation and admonition of the saints. The more cynical among us would say we were treated like cattle. Fenced off from one another, herded in directions we might not want to go even in grocery stores, we were driven to frustration and fear and hopefully, to prayer.
It was pointed out to me a few years ago that God “drove” Adam from the Garden. It is a word more fitting for moving cattle than people and Mark uses the same to describe the Spirit “driving” Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. He was driven there specifically to be tempted and to rely on God’s word and prayer and he succeeded where Adam failed.
Driven we were. Whether we exercised our faith is an individual assessment. Whether we are accustomed now to battle each one must decide. I think we have learned the meaning of death and are getting an inkling of the power of the devil. I pray we have started to plumb the depths and heights of grace. If so the distress was worth it.