Happy Thanksgiving: When Gratitude Isn’t So Warm and Fuzzy

 Happy Thanksgiving 2013, friends and family! (Ooops, had to edit the year–my mind must be into next year already 🙂

Below is an article I read this morning that  I appreciated and hope will be a blessing to you too:

 
By Erin Davis

“These days my thoughts have drifted to the Pilgrims.

We tend to romanticize that first Thanksgiving. We imagine happy Pilgrims sitting over steaming plates of food and kindly asking their Indian guests to “please pass the potatoes.” It’s all so quaint—but our retellings of history have a way of puffing up the happy stuff and glossing over grim realities.

The first Thanksgiving wasn’t necessarily about celebrating abundance. It was more about celebrating God’s presence in the midst of great trial.

The first Thanksgiving feast occurred in 1621. True, there were Indians there. History records that ninety members of the Wampanoag tribe were present. Of the 100 pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower in search of a new life, only fifty-three remained alive to eat the first Thanksgiving feast.

Which brings me to my point. (You just thought I was a history nerd, didn’t you?) The first Thanksgiving wasn’t necessarily about celebrating abundance. It was more about celebrating God’s presence in the midst of great trial.

The Pilgrims landed in New England after a treacherous journey. They spent their first winter on the boat because conditions didn’t allow them to build the new life they dreamed of on shore. Half the pilgrims died from exposure, malnutrition, and illness.

The real story doesn’t paint a pretty picture. It doesn’t hold up well to our Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart visions of brined turkey and fall centerpieces. Sure there was food and fellowship, but that wasn’t the spirit of why they gathered.

They gathered because they chose to be thankful when bitterness, discouragement, doubt, and despair seemed like more logical options.

The Bible calls Thanksgiving a sacrifice (Ps. 107:22, 116:17; Jonah 2:9).

Giving thanks may not feel much like a sacrifice when the turkey is fat and the children’s cheeks are ruddy. Yet even in our current state of abundance, many of us find it difficult to take the time to thank God for all He’s done.

When life is hard and the days are dark and cold, thanking God is the response I can choose.

But when our plans go terribly wrong, our finances fail, our expectations are thwarted, or the smell of death is close by . . . then Thanksgiving becomes truly a sacrifice.

The truth is: life can be really, really hard. And yet,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

I am thankful for the first Thanksgiving and all the turkey dinners it has afforded me. But this year, I am even more thankful for the deeper lesson: when life is hard and the days are dark and cold, thanking God is the response I can choose.

This is a lesson I’m sure God will need to continue to teach me next year (and the year after that). But God seems willing to keep teaching about thanksgiving, even to slow learners like me. For that too, I am thankful.”

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