Some preachers claim that Christians have nothing but pleasant feelings. I have frequently observed this claim in some of your sermons. You (seminarians) say things like: “To be sure, unbelievers are miserable beings. As long as they serve the world and sin, they will be chased by demons.” That is simply not true. Many unbelievers live without any worries of conscience. “In contrast,” some of you say, “how happy Christians are! They are free from all anxiety, free from doubt,” etc. That is not true either. On the contrary, thousands upon thousands of Christians are filled with anguish and despair and are continually struggling and crying out: “Oh, what a wretched person I am!”
In your sermons, you students sometimes like to preach on topics such as “The Blessed State of a Christian” and the like. Well, do not forget that the blessedness of Christians is not based on pleasant feelings but on the assurance that, despite the bitterest feelings imaginale, Christians are accepted by God. In their dying hour they will be received into heaven. That is indeed a great blessedness.
You can easily makes a mistake here without being aware of it. Never say anything that is contradictory to the experience of Christians. Simply search your minds and imagine: “What would it be like if I were sitting among my own parishioners and another pastor preached this. How would I grow fearful? How would I react if asked, ‘Are you a Christian?’ I would have to anser, ‘No!'” Would it not be frightful for me to make a sermon in which I called judgment on myself? If I had to think: “If another man preached that to me, I would be frightened to death if I did not know the truth”?
Of course, in your sermons it is proper for you to depict the happy moments that Christians do occasionally enjoy when given a foretaste of their future happiness. But, at the same time, you must tell your listeners that these are merely passing moments in the lives of Christians—sunbeams that find their way into theirs hearts once in a while. If you describe these moments of bliss properly, this will cause your parishioners neither to be in anguish nor to grieve nor to doubt their faith. Rather, it will give them a heartfelt longing for the experience you are describing.
Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C. F. W. Walther (A Reader’s Edition)