May 30, 2023

Johannes Tauler


Americans have an aversion to suffering. All pain must be medicated, and suffering must be avoided at all costs. Yet who are we kidding? Suffering is inevitable and comes indiscriminately to all. Our spiritual forebears were realistic about suffering. One could not avoid pain and suffering in 14th century Europe. There was all manner of earthquakes, peasant uprisings, civil war, plagues, and financial crises. Many Christians were convinced they were living in the “the end times.” Johannes Tauler (1300-1361) was a German priest ministering to people in this tumultuous century. He was a popular, well-respected preacher. Eighty of his sermons that survive testify to his preaching acumen. He often dealt with suffering in his sermons. He didn’t dwell on why God allows suffering. His primary concern was what use we can make of it. God permits suffering to help us break free from our obsession with material comforts and temporal pleasures. In several sermon excerpts, Tauler referenced James’ admonition, “Consider it all joy whenever you face various trials, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything” (James 1.2-4). Suffering brings perseverance. It can also be redemptive. This was the whole point of the crucifixion.  Christ endured suffering on the cross for our redemption. Tauler’s prayer urges us to seek God in making the right use of suffering:

May Jesus Christ, the King of glory,help us to make the right use
of all the suffering that God sends,
and to offer him the true incense of our hearts,
for his name’s sake.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.