When was the last time you felt desperate? When you do, consider the life of Georg Neumark.
Neumark, born in Langensalza, Germany, in 1621, was a young, well-educated man. And he had plans for his life, all of which were to begin with a university education and a law degree. He packed his belongings in the fall of 1641 and started out on foot to the University of Konigsberg.
It is then that everything fell apart. Neumark was robbed by bandits along the way. They took everything he had, except his prayer book and a small amount of money he had wisely sewed into his clothing. With insufficient funds to pay for his classes, room and board, Neumark dropped out of the university and decided to go to the closest town to look for work.
In Magdeburg, he found nothing. He moved on to Luneburg. Nothing. In Winsen, his misery intensified as he came up empty. Then to Hamburg. No success there, either.
At this point, Neumark was at the end of his rope. He was hungry, tired and had nowhere to live. He tried one last city — Kiel. In that city, he met a man named Nicolaus Becker, a local pastor. Becker took a liking to Neumark, possibly because they were from the same small town. Becker worked hard to find his new friend a job. But, alas, Becker came up empty as well; just as it looked like he might have some help, Neumark’s hope was dashed.
It was now December of 1641, and the winter was setting in. Neumark was indeed desperate for a job to pay for food and a warm place to sleep. He was about to give up, but something told him to keep praying.
Out of the blue, Pastor Becker received notice from a prominent family in his church that their tutor had left town suddenly. Immediately, Becker recommended Georg Neumark. And on that recommendation, Neumark got the job. From that moment, his life changed.
Two-and-a-half years later, Neumark had saved enough to go to law school. He went on to become one of the most influential scholars in Europe at that time.
How often do we, in our desperation, stop trusting God when God’s provision is right around the corner? It was, in large part, Neumark’s faith that saw him through. It was a faith that was not diminished during his time of crisis, but a faith that was strengthened.
You see, we don’t know Georg Neumark for his contribution to law. We know him because the moment he was hired as tutor, he sat down and wrote the famous hymn, “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (If You But Trust in God to Guide You).” If you don’t know it, these words can guide you through your deepest, darkest hours:
If you but trust in God to guide you
and place your confidence in him,
you’ll find him always there beside you
to give you hope and strength within;
for those who trust God’s changeless love
build on the rock that will not move.
Only be still and wait his pleasure
in cheerful hope with heart content.
He fills your needs to fullest measure
with what discerning love has sent;
doubt not our inmost wants are known
to him who chose us for his own.
Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
offer your service faithfully,
and trust his word; though undeserving,
you’ll find his promise true to be.
God never will forsake in need
the soul that trusts in him indeed.
Georg Neumark died on this day, July 18, in the year 1681. The story of his life is a lesson for all of us. For in the end we are all Georg Neumark; when we are stripped bare, all we have is God.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.