Lutheran pastor Martin Rinkart wrote one of my favorite hymns during the ravages of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648).
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 blessed 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.
Rinkart served as a pastor in Eilenburg, a city in eastern Germany. With Sweden’s entry into the war in 1630, the war began to take a terrible toll on Eilenburg. The Swedes attacked the city on multiple occasions, leaving death, destruction and privation in their wake. The city became an overcrowded home for refugees, resulting in widespread starvation and disease. Rinkart opened his home to those in need, although it was difficult to provide enough even for his own family. Scholars estimate that up to 40% of the German population perished during the war. Rinkart’s own wife died during the siege, as did all of his fellow pastors in Eilenburg. At one point, Rinkart buried 50 victims per day and he performed over 4400 funerals in a single year. By the time peace arrived in 1648, Rinkart was worn out. He died the following year.