Sunday, November 20, 2011

In All Circumstances

by C.J. Chase
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

Thursday is the American Thanksgiving holiday. Canadians observed theirs last month. Thanksgiving celebrations often occur in autumn when harvest season reminds us of God's bounty. Giving thanks in a time and place so materially blessed should be a no-brainer. But what about during times of immense trial? Paul instructs us to give thanks in all circumstances.

All circumstances. Let that sink in for a moment.

Most North Americans are unfamiliar with the Thirty Years War of 1618 - 1648. Obstensibly caused by strife among Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists, the war consumed almost all of Europe--from Spain to Turkey and from Norway to Italy--as 200 separate states vied for wealth and power.

For three decades, maurading armies--many of them comprised of mercenaries whose primary payment came from plunder--marched across the continent. Battles for supremacy even took place in far flung colonies in South America, Asia and Africa, making this the first world war. The German people alone are estimated to have lost upwards of one-third their population. Not until the twentieth century would Europe once again experience a war so devastating.

Martin Rinkart (1586 - 1649) was a pastor and prolific hymn writer who lived in Eilenburg, Saxony (present-day Germany). As terrified  civilians fled the countryside for the protection of Eilenburg's walls, famine and diseases such dysentery and typhus soon followed. 

Then an outbreak of the plague in 1637 left Rinkart the only surviving minister in all the city. At the height of the epidemic, Rinkart conducted upwards of 50 funerals per day for a total of nearly 4,500--including one for his own wife.

And yet, sometime during those dark days, Rinkart wrote his most enduring hymn, "Nun danket alle Gott." The tune by Johann Cruger has served as an inspiration to muscians for centuries. Bach based two compositions on the melody. Mendelssohn created the harmonization found in most hymnbooks. Rutter wrote the arrangement in the video below. You may have sung the hymn this morning, using Catherine Winkworth's famous English translation, "Now Thank We All Our God."

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.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd 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!
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 Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
"Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." (I Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Redeeming the Rogue was an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. CJ, a funny coincidence... I was just not less than an hour ago, reading about the Thirty Years War.

    And not so funny, believe it or not... I have never heard that hymn before. It's beautiful. More-so after reading about Martin Rinkart and all he endured. It's so awesome to see how God sustains people through dark times. Thank you for the reminder.

    Lovely post!

  2. Thanks, Suzie.

    I had heard the story about Rinkart many years ago, so when Susie wrote about Frances Havergal, it gave me the idea to do this for around Thanksgiving.

    I decided I needed some background on the Thirty Years War, and almost ended up getting absorbed in the research. Fascinaating and sad. I figured one reason I was so unfamiliar with it is because Britain was about the only European country not involved, and American history tends to trace its "ancestry" back to Britain.

  3. Tragedy tends to pull us to God or push us away, doesn't it?

    This is quite a story and I hadn't heard of Rinkart before, either. Thank you for sharing it today, C.J.

    God keeps us in such amazing ways but I can't imagine facing what Rinkart went through with death all around him--war, a plague. We tend to want to be numbed to pain when it mounts up around it so how do we keep our hearts open at the same time? Incredible. Only by the power of God.

  4. I hadn't heard of that hymn either, but thanks for sharing it.

    And, yes, give thanks. No matter what. :)

  5. Deb, you're right. It seems like tragedies bring out either the best of worst in us -- like they emphasize what is already there and put it out there for everyone to see.

    Of course, God could see it all along.

  6. DeAnna, we didn't sing it this morning (we didn't sing anything Thanksgiving hymns -- what's up with that?), but I heard the organist play it during the prelude.

  7. Thirty years of war! Funny how you remember those things from school (how we rattled it off for one test, or another)... but can you imagine what it was like to be sending your young people off to fight for an entire generation? Having three kids in the military, I think about these things.

    It is amazing how a "zero-in" on history can give you an entirely different perspective on things. Thank you for doing the research, CJ... very fascinating. And, as always, when I do take a closer look at history, I am awed at the strength so many who have gone before us have managed to lay hold on. They encourage me.

    Thank you for this.

  8. Hi, Lilly. Can you imagine how many mothers sent their sons off and never saw them again--and in many cases, they probably had no notion of what happened to them.

    And keeping with the theme of gratitude, please thank your children for their service from me.

  9. Thank you, CJ, I will definitely pass that along to them. I have to say, as hard as it is for me as a mom, they all love their particular jobs. But I am sure many angels are dispatched to battlefields in response to mothers' prayers. Which is the only way I can think about those things.

    I find researching personal accounts of other eras very fascinating, too... almost a form of time travel.


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