This one comes to us from Matt Kroelinger.

Turn on the news station of your choice, and you will encounter a barrage of sickness, tragedy, and heartache. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen hundreds of people killed: those in Paris, those in the mass shootings in the US, those public beheadings by ISIS. Every now and then, the rarity of these “bumps” in our collective public opinion feel like we’re running over small pebbles–lately, though, it feels like we’re driving over large speed bumps at 35 miles per hour. I don’t know about you, but my suspension feels more like a ’93 Toyota Corolla than a brand new BMW. Good grief! Maybe it’s the season of Advent and not feeling “prepared” for the arrival of the incarnate Savior, or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve dealt with seeing a lot of death and sickness in my friends and family this year. Either way, I just don’t seem to be in the Christmas spirit, even though it’s my favorite time of the year.

John Donne experienced several of these periods in his life. The 16th Century Anglican Priest wrote some of his best poetry in the midst of failure and suffering. He can speak volumes in this current age of despair in the world, as well as in our own lives. I dare you to read the “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” without being completely moved and joining him in his prayers, especially when you are going through rough times. In one of his prayers during a bout of sickness that almost left him dead, he wrote:

“And O my God, who madest thyself a light in a bush, in the midst of these brambles and thorns of a sharp sickness, appear unto me so that I may see thee, and know thee to be my God, applying thyself to me, even in these sharp and thorny passages.” (1)

His prayers are all vivid, but this one really struck me. He is one of the few poets who can use imagery to transfer you right to his bed where he cried out in anguish. He leaves no details out in his continual pleas for deliverance from pain and suffering. He even asks God to show Himself through the passages of his own writing. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been that close to death and despair. I have known several people, though, who have cried out in this type of pain. Just recently I watched a loved one cry out to God in her hospital bed for God to come take her, because the simple act of taking a breath hurt too much. It’s hard to imagine a God that is with us in the midst of such pain and suffering.


John Donne reminds us God is not aloof to our suffering. Christmas means God incarnate, who came to us, born in a manger. He experienced the same heartache and sickness we experience, and more. As Luther said, “He sits not upon a proud steed, an animal of war, nor does he come in great pomp or power, but sitting upon an ass, an animal of peace fit only for burdens and labor and a help to man.” (2) Our God is distinctly known as the suffering servant, who died a brutal death on the cross.

It is easy to get caught up in the sickness and tragedies around us. But this Advent season, we hear and remember that we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” Our hope is put on our Savior who will one day return again. He is the one who makes all things new, and will wipe every tear from our eyes. As Donne once said – “Do this, O Lord, for his sake, who knows our natural infirmities, for he had them, and knows the weight of ours sins, for he paid a dear price for them, thy Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen” (3)


  1. John Donne. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together With Death’s Duel.
  2. Martin Luther. A King Arrives: 1st Sunday in Advent. The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther: Volume 1.
  3. John Donne. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions Together With Death’s Duel.