Today I am sharing a hymn story with you. Interestingly, we know that many of the great hymns of faith, as well as new songs, are born out of times of adversity. Great blessing results from a bad time. Many people can be encouraged in their faith by those who have gone through similar trials and shared their hearts in poetry and music.
Just think of all the beautiful spirituals that have been passed down through the years. “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow.” “Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.” “Deep river, my home is over Jordan. Deep river, Lord; I want to cross over into campground.” Those slaves just kept singing through all of their sorrows. They grieved, but not without hope.
Today I want to tell you about a German hymn written in the early 1600’s. Martin Rinkhart was a pastor who witnessed the horrible devastation of the 30 Years’ War and the deadly diseases that swept through his city. The plague of 1637 was especially severe. Since he was the only pastor left in his area, he often conducted 40 – 50 funerals a day. Over the years these amounted to over 4,000.
Pastor Rinkhart constantly ministered to the people in his community, giving away most of his possessions to help the poor and needy. He had little left to provide food for his family, but he wrote a poem of thankfulness to share with his children at the dinner table. It has become one of the most well known Thanksgiving hymns ever written.
Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices; Who wondrous things hath done, in whom this world rejoices. Who, from our mother’s arms, hath led us on our way, with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, to keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed, and free us from all ills of this world in the next.
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, the Son and Him Who reigns with them in highest heaven, the one eternal God, Whom earth and heav’n adore; for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. Amen. (Translation by Catherine Winkworth)
Now I ask you and myself these questions. How can I gain more of an eternal perspective? Can thankfulness surpass my legitimate concerns? Can fear be overcome by trusting the sovereign God with my life and the whole world?