A Season of Thanksgiving
As Americans, we just finished celebrating a time of Thanksgiving with our loved ones. It is such a blessed holiday where we are given the privilege of remembering to be thankful. In our modern era, the conditions under which we celebrate Thanksgiving are often very comfortable. We have air conditioner and heat to control the environment around us. Our food is not grown by our own hands, most of the time it is purchased at the grocery store or perhaps even delivered to our home. No longer do we drive horse and buggy to our families’ homes, we have the ability to get in a car at rates of unprecedented speed. Televisions allow us instant access to athletic competitions, parades, and events around the nation. While the advancements of our modern age are ones for which we can and should be thankful, it is vital for us to not remember our historical roots.
The very first Thanksgiving came after the initial harvest of the pilgrims in the new world. It was a bounteous crop that overflowed allowing them to feast. That year had been filled with much difficulty though. Half of the pilgrims died during their first winter in this new world.1 This group of men and women had overcome a difficult voyage to this land and went through a grueling winter. However, they still saw the blessing of God upon them. English-speaking Native Americans came and helped them learn how to plant the crops they needed to survive while also teaching them to hunt and fish in this land. God’s provision in this way was very kind. As a result, the pilgrims dedicated a time of feasting to the praise of God. An early governor of Plymouth colony, Edward Winslow, said:
“[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want.”
The pilgrims knew great need and they also had been blessed with this season of overabundance. As Winslow says, they saw the goodness of God which was not lacking. In order to honor Him, they fellowshipped together, enjoyed the good gift of food, and engaged in athletic competition for entertainment with one another.
A Heart of Thanksgiving
Please keep in mind that most of the individuals celebrating on this day had lost loved ones over the course of the last year. They had been through battles and difficulties, but they were still thankful. Maybe you can relate to them at some level. Perhaps you have lost beloved family members who no longer sat at the table on Thanksgiving. It could be that you have been through a needy season only to come now to a time of abundance, or maybe you are still in the midst of the battle. Then again, perhaps you have never known true difficulty in this point of your life but have only known abundance in this country of plenty. Whatever the case, we need to learn a lesson (and many more) from the pilgrims. They were thankful to God because of how He had changed their hearts. By His grace, they could see His goodness at every step of the journey.
Scripture is filled with commands to be thankful. We are to be thankful to God because of His love and goodness (Psalm 107). Our hearts are to give thanksgiving for food and the basic needs of life He provides (John 6:1-15). The genuine belief of our fellow Christians, the bond that we share together, and their heart for the Lord that they exhibit should cause us to be thankful (Colossians 1:3-4). Truly, the texts commanding thankfulness abound more than what I can list. Because of the work of God in our lives, we can be thankful in the good seasons and the difficult. We can praise Him when we are in a season of abounding and during a time of need (Philippians 4:10-13). In fact, it is precisely during times of adversity we see overflowing thankfulness and praise to God in the pages of the Bible.
That point is precisely what we must cultivate, a heart that is thankful for who God is can praise Him during any season. Daniel, for example, was in Babylonian captivity and the book which bears his name records much adversity over the course of his life. When God gave him wisdom to explain Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he said:
“To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” -Daniel 2:23
He was in less than ideal conditions in terms of the environment around him, but still thankful. When everything was taken away from Job he still said “blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).” May we learn from these instances over the course of Scripture. Let our souls be filled with thankfulness not just on one day, but every day. It is such a gift to set aside a day of Thanksgiving each year reminding us to praise the name of God. May we learn from our forefathers and be thankful to the Lord for His goodness. By His kind grace, let our eyes be open to see Him at work in every season and to see the glory of who He is every moment of our lives. Friends, let us live thankfully continually knowing how merciful He has been to us!
1 All historical quotes and information can be found here: https://wallbuilders.com/historical-account-thanksgiving/