1st Thessalonians 5:18

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ. Jesus.

t’s November and we all know that means Thanksgiving! Turkey–cranberry-stuffing–and pumpkin pie!  Well that Thanksgiving is good, but I want to talk about an even better kind of thanksgiving,.  Thanksgiving to God.  After all, that is where the holiday got its name.

We all know the story, right? The Pilgrims came to America, the Indians (oops, Native Americans) helped them, and then they celebrated the fall harvest with a feast. When I ask my students who the Pilgrims were thanking at that first celebration, most of them say the Native Americans.  Again, most seem surprised when I correct their thinking by informing them that the Pilgrims were thanking God as well as the Native Americans.

Back to the story. On the surface, it seems like a sweet story with the Pilgrims and the Native Americans coming together for a feast. But the reality isn’t quite as sweet.  Life had been and would continue to be difficult for those first brave Pilgrims who so wanted to worship God their way that they were willing to leave their warm comfortable lives and come to the New World.  New World meaning an unknown world with none of the amenities they’d know their entire lives.

And yet they were thankful to God.

By our modern standards, their life wasn’t  all that great for them in England or the Netherlands. But compared to what they faced in America, life in Europe was much easier. When they arrived in America, they had no houses, no stores to buy food or other necessities, and no towns for safety.  Whatever they wanted or needed, they had to find it or make it for themselves. Not only did they have nothing, but they had no realistic expectations that they would ever see their loved ones whom they’d left behind ever again.

And yet they were thankful to God.

You may or may not know this part of the story. A violent storm threw their ship off course. They intended to land much further south in the Virginia area. Instead, they ended up in what is now Massachusetts. Quite a difference as far as winter weather goes. They weren’t prepared in any way for the difficult winter they faced. That first winter was horrible for the small band of Pilgrims. They lost more than half the group to illnesses and injuries and they only stared out with one hundred three people!

And yet they were thankful to God.

When I was a speech pathologist in the schools, I always spent a few weeks on this story with my students. My goal was to teach the history of the event, but more than that I wanted to fill my students with a sense of awe at how brave these people were.  They were willing to give up everything to travel to an unknown world and start over so that they could worship God in the way they felt was right.

And they were thankful to God.

Life can be difficult for us as well. There are all sorts of circumstances that make us angry, sad, or unhappy. The Bible doesn’t say we should be thankful FOR  the circumstances but IN the circumstances. Even as we go through the tough spots, you will find many things to be thankful for if you look for them. The Pilgrims looked for and found them.

How many of us would show such bravery and courage?



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