December 12, 2012

In All Circumstances

Thanksgiving is already a fleeting memory, drowned by the noise and agitation of the season.

These past weeks I tripped over a text, written by Paul to the saints living in Thessalonica, that brought me back to Thanksgiving: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18, ESV).* The Greek original—as in its English translation—uses an imperative. This is not an optional invitation or a desiderata among other helpful attitudes—it is a divine command. Confession time: I struggle to maintain this spirit of thankfulness at all times. I am grateful, but then I move on, and I tend to forget.

Martin Rinkart seemed to get it. Rinkart was a German Lutheran pastor who ministered in the city of Eilenburg, Saxony, during the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War. War is horrible, but in 1637 it got worse. The plague, the Black Death, had entered the city (overflowing with fugitives and under military attack) and began its grim work. Soon Rinkart was the only pastor left in Eilenburg, conducting dozens of funerals every day. Nearly 4,500 people died in the city that year—including his own wife!

In the midst of this horror, however, Rinkart’s prolific hymnwriting, and his attitude of gratitude, gave us his best-known hymn, “Nun danket alle Gott,” which you know by the title “Now Thank We All Our God” (The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, no. 559).

Here is the deal: sing your praise and thankfulness every day—not just in church or under the shower, not just at Thanksgiving, but at Christmas, too. Thank God for Jesus. Make gratitude part of the texture of all your seasons. Hum your praise in times of joy; hum it as you struggle—and keep singing, even in the midst of pain, worries, uncertainty, and distractions. n

* Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist Review. This article was published December 13, 2012.