The Book of Concord, the 600-plus-page book which contains the doctrinal statements of the Lutheran Church is not light reading. But there are some places where it really grabs your attention and speaks to your heart. One of them is when it talks about what the Bible teaches about election. The Bible teaches that before the world began, God chose (or elected) each one of us to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. It also teaches that God then set in motion a plan for each one of us to get to come to faith, grow in the faith, and remain in the faith until at the end of time he will welcome us into heaven. (Read Ephesians 1:3-10 and Romans 8:28-30.) Concerning this teaching about election, the Formula of Concord declares: The teaching about election also gives us wonderful comfort in crosses and trials. For it teaches that before time began God determined and decreed that he would stand by us in every trouble, grant us patience, give us comfort, create hope, and provide a way out of all things so that we may be saved. Paul speaks about election the same comforting way in Romans 8. He teaches that God preordained what sort of crosses and sufferings he would use to conform each one of his elect to the image of his Son, and that the cross of each person must work together for the good of that person. In other words, the sufferings that we face here on earth do not happen by chance. Rather, God knows us so well that he knows exactly what problems and challenges that we need to experience each day of our life to keep us in the faith and to help us grow in the faith. In 2023 may we learn to view the challenges – yes, even the sufferings we go through – as part of God’s plan to get us to the gates of glory. Paul Gerhardt, the Lutheran hymn writer who suffered more than his share of pain and suffering in his life, understood this well when he wrote the hymn Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me (# 831 in blue hymnal): Why should cross and trial grieve me? Christ is near with his cheer; never will he leave me. Who can rob me of the heaven that God’s Son for me won when his life was given? When life’s troubles rise to meet me, though their weight may be great, they will not defeat me. God, my loving Savior, sees them; he who knows all my woes knows how best to end them. God gives me my days of gladness, and I will trust him still when he sends me sadness. God is good; his love attends me day by day, come what may, guides me and defends me. Since I know God never fails me, in his voice I’ll rejoice when grim death assails me. Trusting in my Savior’s merit, safe at last, troubles past, I shall heav’n inherit.

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