Over the past few weeks I have noticed several of my Facebook friends publicly stating one thing they are thankful for each day of the month during November. While I applaud this sentiment, I would urge everyone to not merely give thanks during each day in November but rather, every day of the year! I am reminded of a line in an old song, “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.” Even during times of pain and suffering, give thanks.
This was certainly true of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth in 1621. In September of 1620, a ship called the Mayflower England carrying 102 passengers sought a new life in a new world. Their trip lasted 66. Their first year in the new world was horrific. The winter was brutal and they suffered from exposure, scurvy and outbreaks of various diseases. Only half of the original passengers survived the first winter. A Native American named Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, taught the weakened Pilgrims how to grow corn, collect sap from maple trees, catch fish, and avoid poisonous plants. In November of 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first successful corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford created a celebratory feast and invited various neighboring Native American tribes to celebrate with them. Thus the first Thanksgiving was born out of heartache, disease, pain, and suffering; however, without the help of their Native American neighbors, it is most likely that the first Thanksgiving would have never happened. What where those at the first Thanksgiving thankful for? Life, health, food, and very generous neighbors and to whom were they giving thanks? To God!
On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln issued an official, “Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day.” In his official proclamation, in the middle of another horrific tragedy in American history, the Civil War, our President stated the following for this first official Thanksgiving Proclamation, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy… 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 dwelleth in the Heavens.”
In light of each of these amazing stories of Thanksgiving, which were wrapped in strife, sickness, and tragedy, let us not merely give thanks to God for each day during November, but rather each day of the year. For surely, our current state of affairs is not quite as tragic as our American ancestors who, even in the face of tragedy, openly gave thanks to God for His blessings and provisions in our lives.