Thankfulness comes from counting your blessings

Published 7:30 am Sunday, November 20, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Johnson Oatman, Jr. His name may not be familiar, but his words still speak to us today.

Oatman was born in 1856 near Medford, N.J. As a child, he learned the hymns of the church from his father, who loved singing. At age 19, Johnson Oatman joined the Methodist Church, which later granted the young man a license to preach in local Methodist congregations.

Upon completing his education, he worked in his father’s mercantile business. But he continued to preach at every opportunity offered him. After his father’s death, Oatman opened an insurance office in Mount Holly, N.J. and was quite successful at this venture.

In the late 1890’s, as Johnson Oatman neared his 40th birthday, he began writing poetry. Most of his poems were set to music by composers. During his 66-year lifetime, he reportedly wrote the lyrics for more than 5,000 hymns, including “Higher Ground,” “The Last Mile of the Way,” and “No, Not One.”

Though he never achieved recognition as an outstanding preacher, he spoke to people around the world who sang the words of his songs. His most well-known hymn was published in 1897. The verses were based on Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

According to the “London Daily” in south London, “the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep” with this hymn.

Oatman penned these words, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

“Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?  Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.”

The chorus says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!”

Edwin Excell wrote the music for this hymn. He wrote and composed more than 2000 Gospel songs. He was known as a singer and author. He edited nearly fifty books by himself and thirty-eight for others.

Johnson Oatman’s hymn is one of my favorites. When I sing it, it reminds me to be thankful for every blessing. A minister I once heard suggested a good way to count your blessings by using a calendar.

Every day write at least one thing you are thankful for that day. I’m going to practice his suggestion. How about you? You just might be surprised how many blessings you have received from God.

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”