If I had the choice to be in attendance at the very first thanksgiving, I would have made the choice to skip it! When I think about what our forefathers had to endure the previous year, there was not much to be thankful for.
The Pilgrims documented their journey as they encountered the high seas, with enormous waves threatening to capsize their ships, diverse sicknesses, and even rat infested quarters. Once they landed, there was no Holiday Inn awaiting them. They faced a brutal winter, a terrible flu season, and an unknown enemy. Despite the Pilgrims’ many earthly reasons to complain, they made the decision to give thanks to God.
Likewise, the book of Acts documented Paul’s journeys as he was misunderstood, slandered, attacked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. Opposition followed him everywhere he went. Nevertheless, Paul was profoundly thankful. Despite his many earthly reasons to complain, Paul was constantly giving thanks to God.
What impact do the Pilgrims and the Apostle Paul have on me? It teaches me that being thankful has little to do with my present circumstances; it has much more to do with my perspective.
For the Pilgrims’, they knew they were securing the freedom to worship God, the freedom to employ their gifts, and freedom to reach their full potential. Future generations would be able to enjoy these freedoms as well. The Pilgrims were thankful knowing that their sacrifices would eventually pay off.
For Paul, he knew that through all of these hardships the gospel was advancing. He states, “That the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
Would I have given thanks, if I had prayed for a smooth journey and barely survived the rough seas? Would I have praised God for His goodness, if half of my loved ones had died during the harsh winter months? Would I have given thanks to God, if I were arrested for sharing my faith? Would I have given thanks to God, if I had been chased out of town? Surely, I would if I knew that through those experiences others could have the freedom to worship Christ or hear the Gospel.
Thanksgiving really is a choice. Resist being cynical and critical. Make the choice to be thankful.