Ah...now, there's an impressive German word for you; not quite as impressive as Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit), my all-time favorite German word, but fun to say nonetheless.
What does it mean? For those of us who live in Lutherland, it refers to the life trials and emotional pain that are part of the human experience; the nagging, stinging, aching consequences of human-beingness that may cause us to question God's goodness and love: Illness; depression; anxiety; the sting of our conscience when we do or say or think something hurtful and wrong; relational frictions; the damaging consequences of our own and other people's sin; our helplessness and outrage at injustice and pain around us; **** happening; the insidious little voice that whispers in our ears:
God doesn't really love everyone.
Where is God now?
If you were a better person you wouldn't feel this way.
If you were a better person this wouldn't have happened.
A good God wouldn't have let this happen.
If you were just more [insert virtue here], or less [insert vice here], God would love you more.
You aren't good enough.
God hates you.
As Luther pointed out, the Adversary, the Accuser, often works in the medium of piety, of religiosity, to nudge us into spiritual despair; our own thoughts, or the accusing, damning words and behaviors of "good Christians."
Anfechtungen, in Lutheran theology, are part and parcel of the Christian experience. They're with us always, like an arthritis that sometimes aches, sometimes stabs.
Today in his sermon my pastor, talking about today's Gospel lesson, noted that we have two ways to handle the manure that falls into our lives; we can either let ourselves be smothered in it, or we can allow the Gardener to dig it in around us -- to help us spread out our roots and grow in an outward direction, our own experience of hurt helping us be more sensitive and reponsive to the pain and need of others; to be what Henri Nouwen called "wounded healers."