Dr. Marc Drake, senior pastor, First Baptist Church Sun Lakes
Having just celebrated Thanksgiving (and with Christmas coming soon), it’s good to keep reflecting on the importance of gratitude. Consider these amazing stories from previous generations: The composer of the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” was a man by the name of Martin Rinkhart. He wrote his great hymn during the 17th century Thirty Years’ War in Europe—a time when Rinkhart’s pastoral duties were extremely difficult. In fact, we’re told that he conducted as many as 40 funerals a day, including that of his own wife. Yet, he wrote the beautiful words to this hymn as a table blessing for his family. Despite the war and plague around him and the intense sorrow within him, he was able to give thanks to God from a truly grateful heart.
A few hundred years after Martin Rinkhart, a Salvation Army leader by the name of Samuel Brengle wrote books that have been loved by many over the years. However, his writing ministry began in quite an unusual way! As a young man serving in the slums of Boston, he was returning home from work one evening when a drunken man threw a brick at him which struck his head with full force. For several days, Samuel Brengle hovered between life and death while his wife prayed fervently for him. He eventually recovered, but it was many months before he could resume his work.
Thus, during this time of prolonged recovery, he began writing articles that were printed in the Salvation Army magazine. These columns were eventually compiled into a little book called Helps to Holiness, which was subsequently published in a dozen different languages and sold record numbers of copies. For the rest of Brengle’s life, he would be stopped everywhere he went by people thanking him for his writings. He would always respond the same way, “Well, if there had been no little brick, there would have been no little book!” He clearly understood that God used his attack and long road of recovery to be a blessing to multitudes. And in that, he could give heartfelt thanks to God.
Perhaps you are encountering great affliction or personal disappointment and wonder when the “long night” will end. Every believer, however, can be encouraged by the fact that God has not lost sight of you. He knows every trial we face and will ever face. And He also has His purposes for everything that comes our way (Romans 8:28), as Martin Rinkhart and Samuel Brengle certainly understood. Therefore, we can (and should) be continually praising God and giving thanks to Him—no matter our circumstances. Psalm 107:8 says, “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!”