One of my favorite Thanksgiving hymns is called Now Thank We All Our God. It was written back in the 1600s by a Lutheran pastor named Martin Rinckart. Rinckart served in the walled city of Eilenburg, Germany. By 1637, he was the last surviving minister in Eilenburg…all the rest had fled. He found it his responsibility to care for the scores of refugees flooding into the city. At the height of the 30 Years’ War, as the black death (the plague) was ravaging Europe, Martin Rinckart found himself performing up to 50 funerals a day. Let me say that again…50 funerals A DAY! I’ve done two funerals in a day and been exhausted. I can’t imagine doing 50.
By the end of 1637, Rinckart had performed almost 5,000 funerals…including one for his own wife. And yet he was able to pen the words to a beautiful, moving hymn of gratitude that was actually meant to be a table grace for his family. It begins: “Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices.”
I always try and remember this song and Rinckart’s story whenever life gets tough. It reminds me of the goodness of God even in the midst of life’s struggles and pain. All I have to do is open my eyes and momentarily step back from my circumstances, and I can see siblings in Christ fighting much harder than me, enduring much more than me. Can I give thanks in all things? Even in the midst of tragedy, can I sense God, the ground of my being, upholding me through the love of family and friends? Most of the time I can…sometimes I can’t…and in those moments, I’ve come to realize that all I can do is keep going…keep putting one foot in front of the other. It sucks…but it’s life; it’s how the world we have made works.
As a child, I used to think when something bad happened that it must be because I had done something wrong…something that displeased God. Thank God I grew up! God does not punish us when we do something “wrong” or even reward us when we do something “good.” Life is life…in all its trials and troubles and blessings. Or, as Jesus put it, the rain falls on the just and the unjust in the same measure.
My encouragement to you in this Thanksgiving week is to keep going…to keep putting one foot in front of another and, if possible, to look for the blessings each day brings…and they’re there…you just might have to look for them a little harder. And, if your life is good, if your world is full of puppies and unicorns, maybe you can be the blessing someone else needs. A hug, a smile, or even just the acknowledgment that you see someone’s pain, can make all the difference.
“Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices…” This year, like every year, Thanksgiving will be what it will be, but may you be able to see glimpses of grace and light, hope and peace, joy and love, in the midst of it.