The year was 1636, it was the worst of times in Europe and the people in Pastor Rinkhart’s parish experienced the worst of the worst. They were in the midst of the “30 Years War, and the enemy had already invaded their town three times, destroying almost everything of value. Pastor Rinkart is said to have buried 5000 people in his parish that year, an average of 15 a day! How would we handle such circumstances? I’m not sure how I would handle fifteen funerals a day, let alone the deaths of those I care about.
Martin Rinkart sought God’s strength in deep soul-searching prayer and in that dark night of the soul he sat down and penned this table prayer for his children. Over the course of my lifetime it became one of my favorite thanksgiving hymns.
Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices;
Who wonderous things have hath done, In whom his world rejoices.
Who, from our mother’s arms, hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
Isn’t that incredible? Almost unbelievable…an attitude of gratitude in the midst of the junk of life. The living did not warrant thanks giving…and yet there it was. Can real people be grateful when real life is hard?
I’ve seen it in Myanmar and the Dominican Republic when I’ve traveled there to serve. I’ve seen it when I’ve sat with a family who have lost someone they love and they sit around alternating between tears and laughter as memories flow from lips. I’ve seen gratitude not only arise, but bring healing, when a couple struggling in their relationship have taken the time to make a g-list. (G is for gratitude.)
In fact let me say this, with all my heart I believe that gratitude is the pathway to wholeness for those who are currently living with fragmented hearts.
Not many years after Martin Rinkart wrote his thanksgiving hymn. A church outside of London was built. On the church a plaque was engraved with these words.. “In the year 1653, when all things sacred through out the nation were either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley Baronet founded this chrch whose singular praise it is to have done the best of things in the worst of times…”
Sometimes the best of things that we can do in the worst of times is practice gratitude. What’s on your g-list?