Martin Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor in the German province of Saxony in the first half of the 17th century. His ministry took place during the Thirty Years’ War which devastated large parts of central Europe, notably many of the German provinces. During the height of this dreadful conflict, he conducted as many as 40 funerals a day, and altogether he presided over 4,000 funerals during his ministry. Yet against this background of sorrow and human brutality, he wrote a table grace for children which has become one of the great hymns of the Christian faith:
Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices!
Thanksgiving has little to do with outward advantages; it has everything to do with inner attitudes. The thankful person is blessed in many ways.
First of all, the thankful person is invariably a contented individual. Discontent makes us strive after the bigger house, the more expensive car and the more exotic holiday. A spirit of gratitude encourages us to appreciate what we have. Rather than always dreaming of the more idyllic future, an attitude of thanksgiving helps us to enjoy the blessings of the present, which is one of the keys to a happy lifestyle.
Thanksgiving also makes us aware of the efforts of others. If we appreciate what others do, we become more aware of the challenges they face. An attitude of gratitude lifts us out of ourselves and helps us become more sensitive and understanding towards others.
And this attitude not only benefits others, but also ourselves. A spirit of gratitude helps to promote a more positive outlook on life. We have so much to be thankful for – food, clothing, friendship, health, to name but a few – and this thankful attitude can carry through to the smaller aspects of life, such as watching a sunset or finding a parking space at a busy shopping centre. Being thankful can transform the way we look at life.
So let us strive to be thankful people. Not only will we be blessed, but we can enrich the lives of others as well. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)