I got an email this morning from a dear preaching friend. He’s been where he is now for a while and the work is going well. This coming off a work that did not go so well. One line of his sweet message lamented the previous work. In my response back I said in part: “You will never know this side of eternity how much good you did at ______.” It’s true. One of the most challenging parts of our work is that we seem to more often than not, not know if what we have done has made a real difference. Yes, when we study with someone and they are baptized or we counsel someone and they thank us. But what we do most, week in/week out, the visits, the prayers, the sermons, the classes, answering questions – do they really make a difference in the mass? So many ministers feel like they are spinning their wheels. May I share a personal story (of course I may, it’s my blog ).
I went back to my favorite city (that would be Hamilton, but hey, H’ton folks you better step it up, Spring Hill is pressing you for this spot) this week to preach the funeral of a dear, dear friend. The neatest thing is seeing Family. In about 3 hours I saw hundreds of people I love that I rarely get to see. It was a time of hugs and special moments. I was nearly brought to tears several times. One dear sister came up to me. And simply said: “You’re little talk did good.” I knew immediately what she was referencing. Let me give some background – but not too much – I want to protect her identity.
Her first husband died and she remarried a man from Hamilton when they were both probably in their 60’s. He was a good, good man. Faithful, dedicated, but a hard man. An old school man. And life had not been easy. He’d lost both his sons while they were still young and his wife to cancer. He was a man of great dignity with a lovely smile which was seen way too rarely. More often he just looked sad, or mad – but I imagine it was mostly hurt. After a few years of dealing with his sullenness, sadness and distance, she got tired of being shut out and left. Anyone who knew these two faithful, godly people were shocked. He came to see me, he was more grief stricken than ever and vowed to do better. It was not an easy talk to tell this good, big, stern man he had to change and be more tender, more caring, more compassionate and considerate to his wife.
Convinced he would, I made about a ten hour drive for a thirty minute meeting to try to convince her of the same. For weeks nothing happened. I got no word. No notice of progress or end. Then she came back. That was 1992. For 20 years I had no idea if my little visit had done any good. I loved that she returned and that for years they have seemed happy. For in all of those years I never knew if what I had done had had any impact at all. Monday she said: “You’re little talk did good.” I said: “Thank you.” She said: “That was 1992.” I didn’t remember the year. I said “thank you” again and moved away as quickly as I could to shed a tear of joy.
Yes, brother. Yes, sister. The good you do today. The service you render. The sacrifice you make. It’s hard to see the impact sometimes and you may sometimes wonder if it is worth it. If you are making any difference at all. It may be a generation, it may be twenty years before you know. And you may never know this side of eternity. But let me tell you now – you are making an impact. God knows and that is all that matters. But I must add, every now and then it does a heart good to hear it.
I love so many who read this blog so deeply and I thank God for the lives you are living and the souls you touch on a daily basis. It’s worth it. Thank you for giving your life for the Cause that is always worth it.