Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) is one of the greatest Lutheran hymn-writers. His hymns are packed full of the comfort we have in Christ in the midst of terrible tragedies. Gerhardt certainly knew tragedy, as he was a pastor during the Thirty-Years’ War, had 4 of his 5 children die young, and his wife die after a prolonged illness. It is a wonderful witness to us that despite all the hardships he went through, he was able to write such comforting hymns.
Stanza One: Why should cross and trial grieve me? Christ is near With His cheer; Never will He leave me. Who can rob me of the heaven That God’s Son For me won When His life was given?
In the midst of such great struggles, Gerdardt points us to Christ and His work on the cross for us, so that no matter what happens in this world, our salvation is secure. Knowing that, we can have true joy, despite our circumstances.
Stanza Two: When life’s troubles rise to meet me, Though their weight May be great, They will not defeat me. God, my loving Savior, sends them; He who knows All my woes Knows how best to end them.
Stanza Three: God gives me my days of gladness, And I will Trust Him still When He sends me sadness. God is good; his love attends me Day by day, Come what may, Guides me and defends me.
Nothing happens without God’s knowledge and Gerhardt takes it a step further by saying that God sends us the troubles we have in this life. Why would God do that? To drive us back to Him as the only source of forgiveness, life, and salvation. The same God who used Christ’s death to give us life will take your troubles and use them so that you would cling to Him for all you need in this life and the life to come.
Stanza Four: From God’s joy can nothing sever, For I am His dear lamb, He, my Shepherd ever. I am His because He gave me His own blood For my good, By His death to save me.
Since Jesus paid the ultimate price for our salvation, nothing can separate us from His love. He won’t allow it to happen. So we can rest secure and find our joy in the Lord, no matter what the devil, the world, and our sinful nature throws at us. The devil has no power over us, the world cannot harm us, and our sinful nature will not have the last word, because Christ has defeated them all on the cross. Because of Christ we know that even our death, that last great enemy, has been turned on its head and is now the gateway to everlasting life. So we can sing along with Gerhardt:
Stanza Five: Now in Christ, death cannot slay me, Though it might, Day and night, Trouble and dismay me. Christ has made my death a portal From the strife Of this life To His joy immortal!