This is a column of encouragement for people who have encountered difficult and disappointing experiences in life, and who wonder if anyone understands or cares. It is for people who have been hurt in ways they often do not want to talk about.
Some of you have worked hard to do good and help people, but you have been mocked and misunderstood. Some of you have been stricken with life-threatening illnesses, or you have stood by helpless as you watched a loved one die long before you expected they might die. Some of you have tried to make it financially, but suddenly you have found your life savings gone. If you are recovering from disappointment with life, this column is for you. Any good that you have done or intended to do will be remembered. It is encouraging to remember that God remembers. Speaking for God, Isaiah wrote: "I will never forget you. See, I have engraved your name in the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49:16)
In the traditional ritual for "The Burial of the Dead", when the minister reads the closing words of the committal at the grave side, just before the Kyrie Eleison, there is this reassuring sentence: "I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth, yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them". The good that you have done, which may have gone unnoticed will not be forgotten. The only thing that God forgets is your forgiven sin, but the good you have done follows you. There is not much you can take with you when you leave this world. You cannot take money or fame, or land and houses, or worldly honors, but the good you have done is yours forever because God remembers.
In a world of injustice and pain, where good people suffer and evil often prospers, we need the hope and assurance that God, who remembers, is watching. There is a verse from a poem by James Russell Lowell that says it well: "Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis truth alone is strong; though his portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own".
If we remember that God remembers, we can always say a proper "Thanks be to God".
One of the great hymns of the church was written by the Rev. Martin Rinkart. It was in the seventeenth century, during the horrible "Thirty Years War" which seemed to last forever. He was a Lutheran pastor serving a small church in a little town that had become a haven for thousands of refugees fleeing the war. Famine and disease always come with refugees, and it was no different in Martin Rinkart's little town. In one year Pastor Rinkart buried 4000 people who died of the pestilence and famine. Many of those he buried were friends and family members. Surrounded by poverty, need, and want on every hand, hounded by death and destruction and lacking in everything save his faith, Martin Rinkart would write this great and graceful hymn:
"Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices; who from our mother's arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today."