This is a day for giving thanks in America! It’s a day that stretches back to a time before America became a nation.
When the Pilgrims landed in 1620, they were unprepared for the harsh realities of life in the new world. Sadly, about half of them died in the first year.
After a successful corn harvest in their second year, they celebrated a feast of thanksgiving in November of 1621.
Edward Winslow reflected on that first thanksgiving meal, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we gathered the fruit of our labors. …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.”
Americans continue to celebrate a day of feasting and thanksgiving in the fall of each year.
On October 3, 1789, our first President, declared that Thanksgiving is “… devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country …” (George Washington)
In 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation for a perpetual national day set aside for thanksgiving. Addressing a nation torn apart by Civil War, Lincoln said,
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens.”
Dangers lurking in ungrateful hearts
I thank God that we continue to acknowledge a day of thanksgiving. There are dangers lurking when our hearts become ungrateful.
As one observed, “…. rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant” (Os Guinness).
The downward spiral of humanity begins with ungrateful hearts. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
If there is a God “who made the world and everything in it,” who is “the Lord of heaven and earth,” thanksgiving is the only appropriate response (Acts 17:24).
Giving thanks when life is hard
C.S. Lewis wisely suggested that, “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is ‘good,’ because it is good, if ‘bad’ because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
Another noticed that, “Some people complain that God put thorns on roses, while others praise him for putting roses on thorns.”
We double our loss when we lose our ability to be grateful in hard times. Good things flourish in thankful hearts.
A renewed practice of gratitude
Giving thanks is a practice that will help us fight off a spirit of discouragement and discontentment. Loss of thankfulness is often a gradual thing that takes the joy out of our lives as we slip into mediocrity. Someone wisely observed that, “It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.”
When we “engage in the perpetual dialogue of gratitude,” we “turn the tide, rather than following the lazy downward spiral of negativity. “… the rhythm of divine renewal beats in the pulse of a purposefully grateful heart.” Yet “Few of us want to cozy up to the fact that most often God changes us in the process of ordinary day-to-day dependence on him” (Ellen Vaughn, Radical Gratitude).
- “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
- “…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
- “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
There’s nothing timid or boring about extravagant gratitude! Be brave. Embrace the call to be an extravagantly grateful person.
Join me in giving thanks!