Many of us have sung the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” over the years and have appreciated the voice it gives to our gratitude for God’s faithful provision. Few of us, however, would be familiar with the challenging circumstances in which Martin Rinkart’s lyrics were forged.

Rinkart served as a pastor in his hometown of Eilenberg, Germany, through unbelievably challenging circumstances – the Thirty Years’ War. Rinkart and his family provided shelter to war and famine victims in their home even though they often struggled to feed and clothe themselves. During the plague of 1637, when circumstances were at their worst, Rinkart was the only pastor remaining in the town and was “often conducting as many as 40 to 50 funeral services daily.” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories)

His eloquent words of thanks anchor the singer’s heart in the nature and character of a God who verse 2 pleads would “guide us when perplexed and free us from all ills in this world and the next.” Rinkart’s words are particularly poignant when one considers the context of his thought. And his hymn reminds us that even in such a time as this (a viral pandemic), one can “give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Our gratitude directs the eyes of our hearts to a God who will, in Rinkart’s plea, “keep us in His grace.”

Prayer: God of all grace, in this time of perplexity, guide us. Grant us the capacity to live in gratitude and to serve all those who are in need – battling illness, suffering scarcity, struggling with discouragement or even desperation. Enable us to give thanks in all circumstances, and by doing so, genuinely to trust Your provision.

Keith Koteskey, M.Div., is Assistant Professor Christian Ministries at Bethel University.