Out of all the US holidays celebrated throughout the year, Thanksgiving Day is the one that, to some degree, "acknowledges" God, at least indirectly. The history behind this holiday celebrates more than the Pilgrims and the Native Americans having a large meal together. It symbolizes a time of rejoicing and praise to God for their survival and the blessings He bestowed through learning to work together in harmony for the benefit of everyone. Sarah Hale, the God-fearing woman who petitioned five different presidents over a period of thirty eight years to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday, did not wait for a "good time" to make her request. She wrote to President Abraham Lincoln when the country was in the heat of the Civil War, the deadliest war in American history. President Lincoln agreed that America needed a reminder that the country's strength was in uniting and looking to God. He established a national day of thanksgiving and prayer. Years later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a resolution establishing the fourth Thursday of November as the official day of celebration. This brief lesson in history offers believers some insights into "thanksgiving" as well.
Throughout the Bible, the people of God are encouraged to offer thanks and praise to God for His goodness and mercies. Many of the Psalms are songs of adoration and gratitude to God for His benevolence. It seems that thanksgiving should naturally flow from the heart of a child of God, but does it? Why are we commanded to "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord... Serve the LORD with gladness... Be thankful unto him, and Bless his name" (Psalm 100)? In the New Testament we are encouraged to "Rejoice in the Lord alway..." (Philippians 4:4) "In everything give thanks" (I Thessalonians 5:18a).
A look at the children of Israel under Moses provides some clues. The Israelites had seen the miraculous power of God in Egypt as well as in the wilderness. Yet they complained and murmured against Moses time after time when they came upon hardship. After being delivered from Egyptian bondage and oppression, they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation ~ Psalm 78:22. Parents of children can identify with this phenomena. No matter how much is provided and no matter how much of a sacrifice is made on their behalf, children still cry, throw tantrums, and want to have things their way. More is never enough. One of the characteristic of people in these last days is unthankful (II Timothy 3:1,2).
Just as history teaches us, life is full of trouble and challenges. This year, 2020, has been a memorable one for many with the Covid-19 outbreak affecting so many facets of society: health, employment, education, travel, not just in the US, but worldwide. On our shores, racial tensions, political sparing, fires, hurricanes, violent crimes, there is a surplus of bad news. Hard times come to all, but for those who trust in God, there is a difference. One song poet penned "Sometimes we need the hard times to bring us to our knees. Otherwise we do as we please and never heed Him. But He always knows what's best, And it's when we are distressed That we really come to know God as He is." (The Fire by Deb Jackson) Troubles are teachers that help us learn to trust in God with all our heart. A purified heart sees much to "Thank God" for: health and strength, an income, a sound mind, a place to live, food to eat, family, friends, precious memories and most of all, Jesus, God's love gift to mankind. When we were miserable, self-destructing, and guilty before a holy God, Jesus surrendered His life so that we might have life more abundant. Gratitude comes from a heart that has been cleansed from sin and selfishness, yet we must be careful to remember our source of hope and strength is Christ alone!
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits
~ Psalm 103:1, 2