Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. Here in America it is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a day set aside to recognize the many abundant blessings showered upon us by our Heavenly Father. The very first Thanksgiving day was a festival held in by Pilgrims in the year 1621 to celebrate the bountiful harvest from that year. Historic records states that the Native American tribe of Wampanoag and the Pilgrims feasted together. If it had not been for a Native American from the Pawtuxet tribe called Squanto I am fairly certain that the remaining 51 passengers from the Mayflower most likely would have perished. “Squanto taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribe, which would endure for more than 50 years and tragically remains one of the sole examples of harmony between European colonists and Native Americans.” https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving
On this day, we often get together with our families, or friends, to celebrate the harvest with large dinners, usually with turkey as the centerpiece and an over abundance of additional dishes. And, desserts – lots and lots of desserts. Usually before they eat someone will offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and ask God to bless the food. Some people have a tradition of going around the table and state what they personally are thankful for.
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalms 107:1, ESV)
For some, thankfulness will include family, their spouse, a roof over their head, food for their bodies, friends, jobs, careers – all glorious blessings indeed. It’s easy to be thankful when the situations that you are facing in life are good and you have an abundance. It’s easy to be thankful when you’ve struggled through a situation and you have made it successfully to the end. It’s easy to be thankful when you emerge from the tunnel into the light of the day.
It’s also easy to forget just where all those blessings come from once you’ve experienced your abundance for a while – when we tend to think that we’ve accomplished everything on our own. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons that this particular day, Thanksgiving, is a good time for us to refocus on our many blessings.
But how about the times when things are not quite so cheery? How about the times when you’ve experienced a devastating event – a health diagnosis that frightens you, a job loss, an accident, your child is severely injured, your child is bullied at school, your child follows a very destructive path, your spouse is unfaithful, people are spreading lies about you, co-workers exclude you, friends turn their backs during a crisis, your wealth – or health, is stripped away? Are you thankful during those times?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV)
I would venture that you, like me, are less inclined to say that we are thankful for our affliction, whatever it may be, when we are in the midst of said affliction. When the world is crashing in around you, it indeed is very difficult to exhibit an attitude of gratitude. I, for one, lose a tremendous amount of sleep during those very stressful times, which of course, doesn’t help the situation at all. I develop tunnel vision – I worry, I fret, and I shed tears. In other words, I hold a pity party. And interspersed within my pity party, I also cry out to God with my Bible open to Psalm 40. When I can gather myself together, I recount the many times that God has rescued me from that miry pit. I return my focus and energy to the one who holds all things for me, the one who loves me unconditionally, the one who will never, ever fail me. I return to God. For I know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that no matter what I face, He will once again prove faithful.
So this year for Thanksgiving I want to stop and be thankful for the usual blessing that we all recognize – a wonderful husband, a successful business, a roof over my head, food to sustain me, our life of travel and adventure, our family members, and wonderful friends. But, most of all I wish to express thankfulness for those times of struggles, those times of scars that healed, those times in which God called me to return to Him. Those times when my Abba Father proved again, and again, to me just how much he loves me. And, by the way, He loves you that much too.
“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalms 69:30, ESV)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May we all be thankful each and every day for the many blessings that the source of all blessings showers upon us. May we always rejoice in Him!