"In Thee Is Gladness" reflects on God's power to sustain us in trials
“In Thee Is Gladness”
Johann Lindemann; translated by Catherine Winkworth
UM Hymnal, No. 169
In Thee is gladness, amid all sadness,
Jesus, sunshine of my heart.
By Thee are given the gifts of Heaven,
Thou the true Redeemer art.
Our souls thou makest, our bonds thou breakest;
who trusts Thee surely hath built securely,
and stands forever. Alleluia!
Johann Lindemann was born around 1550 and died around 1633. Modern scholars are still debating about his birth and death dates.
He was related to Martin Luther. Lindemann attended grammar school at Schulpforta, attended gymnasium (high school) at Gotha, and graduated with an M.A. from Jena. According to hymnologist John Julian, he began serving as a cantor at Gotha in the early 1570s and retired from this position in 1631.
Lindemann was particularly significant because of his ability to unite the Italian madrigal with the German chorale tradition and became most famous for his contrafactum (providing a new text to an existing music) setting of IN DIR IST FREUDE. The uncertainty of his authorship of this hymn setting stems from the fact that most of his music is lost, except for a few hymn collections.
The tune IN DIR IST FREUDE, adapted from Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi’s (c. 1554-1609) famous ballettos, is characterized as being a “light-hearted, dancelike piece” which contained a fa-la-la (nonsense syllable) refrain. Gastoldi was an Italian priest and composer who had a great influence on several great composers of his era including Claudio Monteverdi, Hans Leo Hassler, and Thomas Morely.
Catherine Winkworth’s (1827-1878) English translation of this text is masterful. Known as the finest translator of German hymns of her time, she retains the character, rhyme and line of the text which matches the personality and spirit of the tune with great ease.
Her Lyra Germanica: Second Series (1858), which contained the English translation “In Thee Is Gladness,” is subtitled The Christian Life. The Lyra Germanica was intended as a devotional book of poems.
The tune IN DIR IST FREUDE was not paired with the text until 1863 when it was published in the Chorale Book for England: A Complete Hymn Book for Public and Private Worship, in accordance with the Services and Festivals of the Church of England under the section heading “Love to the Savior.” This hymn is generally found under the “Praise and Adoration of Christ” sections of many denominational hymnals.
The hymn is a wonderful reflection of the sustaining power of God in the face of the travails of life. The author tells us that Jesus, the “sunshine of my heart,” is the source of our hope. The first stanza ends with a phrase reminiscent of Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Echoing this passage, the hymn writer finds that regardless of our struggles, “naught can us sever” from God’s glory.
The second stanza seems to draw from Romans 8:31, “If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us?” It begins, “If God be ours, we fear no powers, not earth or sin or death.”
Even the dance-like character of the music seems to defy the struggles of life because of the hope that Jesus offers all. Indeed, the hymn concludes with “shout[s] for gladness, triumph o’er sadness . . . [and] voices raising glad hymns forever. Alleluia!”