Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of his knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14.
Her name was Soetgen. She was arrested for her faith in 1559 and separated from her family, including her husband, Claes. When authorities executed Claes, Soetgen tasted fear and loneliness. From her prison cell in Ghent, Belgium, she looked out at life going by and knew she would never be a part of it again. She sensed that she would never again see her children. With tears in her eyes she wrote a letter of calm assurance and encouragement to them. This letter has been preserved down through the centuries, and it calls us to faithfulness today.
She wrote, "Since it pleases the Lord to take me out of this world, I will leave you a memorial, not of silver or of gold, for such jewels are perishable, but I should like to write a jewel into your heart, if it were possible, which is the word of truth.”
In her final hours Soetgen did not think of her suffering and imminent death. She longed for her children to be faithful to the Christ she loved. She longed for them to experience His grace, to be faithful to His truth. Her letter continues with these powerful words: AI commend you to the Lord. . . . May He keep you to the end of your lives. May He lead you to the New Jerusalem, that we may see each other with joy on the day of the resurrection.”
Helpless could have overwhelmed Soetgen. She could have just fallen apart. Instead she wrote a letter full of love and confidence.
Just before her death, Soetgen received an encouraging letter from her daughter, Betgen. Yes, her precious little girl still clung to Christ. Yes, the same faith still burned in her heart. Yes, the same love for Christ still filled her life.
On November 27, 1560, Soetgen burned as a so-called heretic. Her parting words to her children, hastily written with a trembling hand, were "Herewith I commend you to the Lord, and to the work of His grace.”
There is nothing more precious than our relationship with Christ. There is no other relationship more important. To know Him is life’s most important priority. Echoing and reechoing over the centuries from a damp Belgian cell, the witness of a faithful martyr’s life urges us to Aseek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).