On the drive to work today I reflected on and sang and pondered these words,
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name (Matt Redman, “10,000 Reasons”)
Tears filled my eyes, emotions overwhelmed the senses. I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography, confronted with all that he faced in a madman like Hitler and all he was willing to give for the sake of Christ. In 1935 as tensions rose in Berlin and the pastor would soon be arrested for the first time, his grandmother passed away, having been the moral and spiritual rock of the Bonhoeffer family. He was asked to preach her funeral.
He chose as his text Psalm 90—a text that was fresh on my mind the days after Davin died, and was printed in his memorial service bulletin. One sentence that Bonhoeffer uttered at the close of that sermon had, to me, Davin written all over it:
She stemmed from another age, from another spiritual world… this heritage for which we thank her lays duties upon us (Bonhoeffer, 283).
Dietrich’s grandmother fought strongly against the Jewish oppression and annihilation, and he felt strongly that her example, like Christ’s, laid an obligation on all who followed her. Her biography laid a weight of responsibility on her family to act on behalf of those who could not defend themselves. At the age of 30, it was that heroic example that compelled the young pastor to wager his life for the fate of Jewish Christians and of truth.
Davin sang God’s praise until the bitter end, when his strength failed him; he sang the very words to this song, dying. And like Bonhoeffer said at his grandmother’s funeral, Davin’s story lays duties upon us all. It laid upon his friend Raleigh the impetus to get busy living with a new ministry in NYC.
Davin and Dietrich, both early 30’s, both faithful unto death, both laying a weight of responsibility and a call to follow Christ on us—at the cost of our lives—however that may look to each of us. And both a witness to the promise of God’s unending faithfulness, that whatever I face today, God will guard my heart to worship him still. How did I know this morning that I’d be singing God’s praise no matter what happened today? Because Davin did, and so did Dietrich. Cancer or Hitler, illness or tyrannical evil, God will keep his promises.
A pensive thought for the road. Surely the reality of Nazism, of concentration camps and mass murder in Germany gave reason to feel depressive about the situation of life. Terminal cancer, I think, would do the same. But this has always bewildered and amazed me: dropped into that circumstance, Bonhoeffer said it was a great opportunity to honor the Lord, even if it meant dying.
Bonhoeffer was an eternal optimist because he believed what God said through the Scriptures. He knew that whatever befell him or the faithful brethren would open new opportunities in which God could operate, in which his provision would become clear (Bonhoeffer, 299).
Are we, like Davin and Dietrich, brave enough to see the circumstances of our afflictions—whatever they may be—as opportunities to serve the Lord? And will we trust that God will bring us through those trials with joy?