We sang several songs in our Sunday morning service which emphasized the believer’s quiet and confident trust in God in the midst of the trying circumstances which he puts into our lives.
“Now Thank We All Our God” was written by Martin Rinkart (and translated from the German by the incomparable Catherine Winkworth). Rinkart was a German pastor who ministered in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War, “in times of famine, plague, and death (including the death of his first wife). Milgate writes: ‘The thought of this faithful pastor, frail in physique but heroic in service, ministering to such distress and courageously facing lawless bands, gives great poignancy and resonance to his famous hymn’ (Songs of the People of God: 27).”12
Oh may this bounteous God through all our lives 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 free us from all ills in this world and the next.
“Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right” (also translated by Catherine Winkworth!) may be equaled by other hymns as an expression of trusting confidence in God in the midst of trials, but I don’t think it can be surpassed. I commented on that song not too long ago here.
Whate’er my God ordains is right,
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet am I not forsaken,
My Father’s care
Is round me there,
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all.
This was followed by William Cowper’s matchless “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” with its message of God’s loving providence:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.
We closed the service with Karolina Sandell-Berg’s “Day by Day”. I have always appreciated this song’s message of a caring God who carefully apportions to his children just the right amount of blessing and trial.
Day by day, and with each passing moment, strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.3
- J. R. Watson, An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford, 2002), 74). [↩]
- “The greater part of Rinkart’s professional life was passed amid the horrors of the Thirty Years War. Eilenburg being a walled town became a refuge for fugitives from all around, and being so overcrowded, not unnaturally suffered from pestilence and famine. During the great pestilence of 1637 the Superintendent went away for change of air, and could not be persuaded to return; and on Aug. 7 Rinkart had to officiate at the funerals of two of the town clergy and two who had had to leave their livings in the country. Rinkart thus for some time was the only clergyman in the place, and often read the service over some 40 to 50 persons a day, and in all over about 4,480. At last the refugees had to be buried in trenches without service, and during the whole epidemic some 8,000 persons died, including Rinkart’s first wife, who died May 8, 1637. The next year he had an epidemic of marriages to encounter, and himself fell a victim on June 24. Immediately thereafter came a most severe famine, during which Rinkart’s resources were strained to the uttermost to help his people. Twice also he saved Eilenburg from the Swedes, once in the beginning of 1637, and again in 1639. Unfortunately the services he rendered to the place seemed to have made those in authority the more ungrateful, and in his latter years he was much harassed by them in financial and other matters, and by the time that the long-looked-for peace came (Oct. 24, 1648) he was a worn-out and prematurely aged man.” John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, 962. [↩]
- The tune universally wedded to this text, BLOTT EN DAG, lends itself to finishing a thought at the end of the third line (which in this excerpt is “what he deems best”) and beginning another thought at the beginning of the fourth line (which in this excerpt is “lovingly . . .”). Combine this with the potential ambiguity of the word “its” (“its part of pain and pleasure”), and the practice of capitalizing the first word of each line, and I suspect that it is not uncommon to sing the fourth line as a grammatically independent thought with this sense: “Lovingly, it is [“it’s” vs. “its”] part of pain and pleasure . . .”. However, syntactically, the idea is as follows: “He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best; [he] lovingly [gives each day] its part of [on the one hand] pain and [on the other hand] pleasure, mingling toil [corresponding with “pain”] with peace and rest [corresponding with “pleasure”]. [↩]