For if you carefully consider the state of our church, we seem to have nothing but the pure Word and the sacraments, and we have an infinite number of adversaries—princes, nobles, citizens, domestics, and pupils, and finally our own flesh which we carry about with us. For this is our glory, to be vexed and laughed at even by those from our own midst, by those in our own household. Those are our lids, on account of which we judge that God by no means wants to recognize and regard us as His own. For nothing becomes the church less than this picture, When I saw such contempt, aversion, and hatred for the Word arising from men after the rebirth of the light of the Gospel, I myself often thought: “Why did I begin to teach? Or, why do I keep on when men rage against us more and more and become worse daily?”
But these things must be borne, and we must conclude that God is the One who is hidden. This is His peculiar property. He is really hidden, and yet He is not hidden, for the flesh prevents us from being able to look at Him. It murmurs, is sorrowful, rages, is angry, and cries: “I am most wretched, forlorn, and despised.” It is certainly true that the pastors of the church together with the godly do not have the protection of princes, or kings, nor even the patronage of the citizens or peasants, which is the church’s due. The patronage which it already has is often taken away, so much are the pastors and the godly exposed to plunderings and wrongs of every kind. So it seems that God is completely forsaking us and casting us away, because He is hidden to us and we are hidden along with Him. But in faith, in the Word, and in the sacraments He is revealed and seen.
Reason, wisdom, righteousness of the flesh, and this light of the sun God regards as dark and misty, but here the Word comes forward like a little flame shining in the midst of darkness and scattering its rays through its doctrine and the sacraments; these rays God orders to be apprehended. If we embrace them, God is no longer hidden to us in the spirit but only in the flesh.
Therefore, also when we are plunged into disasters and troubles and covered by darkness, things on account of which we cannot be sure that we are the church or pleasing to God, let us learn to take hold of the Word and let sink and fall what falls, and let us not be moved by the fall and defection of others. But let us reflect that we are in a dark place, with the lamp of the Word shining before us. “For he who believes and is baptized will be saved” ( Mark 16:16). For that light is the only one which the sun and human reason do not see; but it shines in the heart. Besides this Word we should know nothing and see nothing. For if this Word alone is shining, there is no danger, and the hour will come when we shall come forth and say with joy: “I have seen the Lord face to face, and my soul has been saved.”
Luther’s works, vol. 6: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37 p 147-148