Martin Luther to Jerome Weller, July 1530

Grace and peace in Christ.

My dear Jerome:

The reason that you are targeted by the devil is because you are a firm believer in Christ. The devil never wastes time with the enemies of Christ: Eck, Zwingli, and others. It is natural that all of us who are Christians make an adversary out of the devil; as Saint Peter says, "Your adversary, the devil, walketh about."

Therefore, Excellent Jerome, you ought to rejoice in this attack of the devil because it is a sure sign that God is loving and merciful to you.

You say that your burden is heavier than you can bear, and that you fear that it will break and beat you down so much that you might curse god and commit suicide. I know this scheme of the devil. If he cannot break a person with his first attack, he persists to attempt to wear him out and weaken him until the person falls and surrenders the fight. 

But whenever this assault comes at you, avoid an argument with the devil by not allowing yourself to dwell on your anxiety, for to do so is nothing short of yielding to the devil and letting him have his way. 

Reject those thoughts which are induced by the devil. 

In these kinds of struggles, you must show contempt for the devil if you wish to defeat him. Laugh at him, scorn him, and ask him who he thinks he is. Most importantly avoid being alone, for the devil becomes most dangerous to you when you are alone. The devil is conquered by mocking and insulting him, not by resisting and arguing with him. Therefore, Jerome, joke and frolic with my wife and others. That's the best way to rid yourself of diabolical thoughts and be strong.

This problem is actually better for you than food and drink.

Let me remind you what happened to me when I was about your age. When I first entered the monastery I was sad and downcast, I couldn't overcome depression. So I went to my mentor, Dr. Staupitz (what a guy) and admitted to him what horrible and terrible thoughts I had. He said: "Don't you know, Martin, that this problem is useful and good for you? God knows what He is doing. You will see that he is preparing you for great things." And so it turned out. I was made a great doctor (if I may say so myself) although when I was going through that darkness I never would have believed it possible. I have no doubt that this will happen to you too. You will become a great man. Just be of good courage in the meantime, and know that my words, learned and great man that I am, are of prophetic quality.

Long ago, when I was nobody, I ministered to a man whose son died. He said, "Wait and see, Martin, you will become a great man." I have often thought of his words, for, as I have said, blessings like that have prophetic power.

Be of good courage, therefore, and cast troubling thoughts out of your mind. Whenever the devil pesters you with these thoughts, seek out a party, drink more, joke and goof off, or do something else really inane. Sometimes we have to drink a little more, play, joke, or even commit some sin to show our contempt of the devil so that we prove to him that his little guilt trips don't work on us. You'll ruin yourself if all you do is worry about sinning.

So if the devil should say to you, "You better not drink," you must reply to him, "Well, devil, since you told me not to, I'm going to drink, and you know what? I'm going to drink a lot." In other words, we must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. 

What do you think is my reason for drinking intoxicating drinks, saying whatever I want, and eating like a glutton? It is to torment and piss off the devil who made up his mind to torment and piss me off. I like to commit a sin occasionally for the sake of mocking the devil, so that he might see that I am not susceptible to his guilt trips. 

When the devil attacks and torments us, we should just say "what ten commandments?"

When the devil throws our sins up in our face and declares that we deserve death and hell, we should respond like this: "I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I will get what I deserve? Hell no. For I know the One who suffered and took what I deserve. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Wherever he is, there is where I will be forever."


Martin Luther.