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tegel-zelleWriting from his cell at Tegel Prison in May 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected:

We have grown up with the experience of our parents and grandparents that a man can and must plan, develop, and shape his own life, and that life has a purpose, about which a man must make up his mind, and which he must then pursue with all of his strength. But we have learnt by experience that we cannot plan even for the coming day, that what we have built up is being destroyed overnight, and that our life, in contrast to that of our parents, has become formless or even fragmentary.

In spite of that, I can only say that I have no wish to live in any other time than our own, even though it is so inconsiderate of our outward well-being.

We realize more clearly than formerly that the world lies under the wrath and grace of God. We read in Jer. 45: “Thus says the Lord: Behold what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up. . . . And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not; for, behold, I am bringing evil upon all flesh; . . . but I will give your life as a prize of war in all places you may go.”

If we can save our souls unscathed out of the wreckage of our material possessions, let us be satisfied with that. If the Creator destroys his own handiwork, what right have we to lament the destruction of ours? It will be the task of our generation, not to “seek great things,” but to save and preserve our souls out of chaos, and to realize that it is the only thing we can carry as a “prize” from the burning building. “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flows the spring of life.”


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4 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on Embracing Your Times”

  1. This has an “I’ll Fly Away” feel. I’m not sure it’s time for that yet.

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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