Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him…” Psalm 42:11
“I shall again praise him.” You don’t say things like that without doubting God’s praise-worthiness. Let’s face it, life will make us doubt the goodness of God. Yet praise in hard places stands out as a powerful expression of faith.
Martin Rinkart was a Protestant pastor in Eilenburg, Germany during The Thirty Years War in the mid-17th century. A consequence of the war, deadly pestilence, killed the majority of the village. All religious clerics left the city except for Rinkart. At one point he performed upwards of 50 funerals a day including, one day, his wife’s.
Following the service, he came home, sat at the dining table where she would no longer place meals she prepared for Martin and their children. He pulled out a pen and wrote a table grace. It became a hymn we still sing.
1. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2. Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!
3. 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.
Theologian Walter Brueggeman, in his book Virus as a Summons to Faith, reflects on this hymn and the words of Jeremiah as they relate to our modern pestilence and challenges.
We may identify two accent points that recur in this rhetoric. First, is to engage in relentless, uncompromising hope. This is more than a civic assurance that “we will get through this.” It is rather the conviction that God will not quit until God has arrived at God’s good intention. But the second task of ministry is the work in the meantime to be witness to the abiding ‘hesed’ (tenacious solidarity) of God that persists amid pestilence. It is the witness of Jeremiah that amid abandonment, God has not abandoned.” (p.32)
This has been another hard year, yet God is good. We have not faced this year alone. We can, of course, but that is to put us in a most precarious place, facing life alone. For those who put their trust in God, they find not only a source of blessing but a blessing when resources falter.
Perhaps you’ll enjoy taking a brief moment to get ready for Sunday by listening to John Rutter’s version of Rinkart’s hymn below.