Thanksgiving Day is a national opportunity to be collectively grateful for all our prosperity, all our blessings, and all the peace and security afforded to us by living in this great country. We thank God for our blessings. We thank our forebears for making this country what it is today. We are grateful to our family for being there through the rough times and the happy times.
Maybe you can’t relate to this.
Maybe your life hasn’t been all that prosperous. Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet. Maybe you are far from family or have no family. Maybe you think God is deaf or indifferent. Maybe you think that all the good things in your life come from your own efforts and that God is irrelevant.
You are not alone. In times of trouble or peril, it is difficult to believe in God’s love and goodness. As a human being, you have free will and can choose to believe or not believe in a divine Creator. For those who choose to believe, God will sustain His people in the dark times and faith will grow.
Imagine how it was for the first Pilgrims. They left England desperately seeking religious freedom. After traveling 65 days on the rough seas of the Atlantic, suffering great indignities and danger, 100 Pilgrims set foot on the shores of the New World, which today is Plymouth, Massachusetts.
During that first winter, half of the Pilgrims perished from poor nutrition and inadequate housing. Think of it! Fifty people with great hope and faith in God endured a harsh voyage only to die on a foreign shore. Can you imagine how the survivors felt? Did they curse God or deny His existence for the loss of their fellow Christians? On the contrary, they chose to believe in God’s goodness and trusted in His providence. They did not trust in their circumstances but in their God. They chose to believe and prayed for a miracle.
Enter Squanto, an English-speaking Native American, who served as an interpreter and negotiator for the Wampanoag people. He taught the newcomers how to plant corn so that they could survive during the winter. He showed them the best places to hunt for fish and game so that they had food to eat. He introduced them to the water-repellant pelt of the beaver, which kept them warm through the bitter winters.
During harvest season of 1621, the Pilgrims showed their gratitude by inviting their Native American neighbors to share a meal with them. As deeply devout Christians, they gave thanks to their Creator and there is little doubt that at that time they saw Squanto and his people as answers to their prayers.
This is the origin of Thanksgiving. It is one of our most deeply held traditions—a time of gratitude, a time of feasting, a time for family-gathering, a time for giving thanks to God for His bounty and blessings, for His goodness and love, and for His faithfulness.
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good and because his gracious love is eternal! — 1 Chronicles 16:34
The one who observes a special day, observes it to honor the Lord. The one who eats, eats to honor the Lord, since he gives thanks to God. And the one who does not eat, refrains from eating to honor the Lord; yet he, too, gives thanks to God. — Romans 14:6