For What Do We Give Thanks?

Dr. Ralph Wilson, on the website “Joyful Heart,” writes these words about the first Thanksgiving. “On December 21, 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock. Through the dead of winter the colony struggled with poor and meager food, strenuous labor, a biting wind that chilled to the bone, and the ravages of disease. Nearly half the 102 Mayflower passengers did not live to see spring refresh Cape Cod Bay. Indians named Samoset, Squanto, and Massasoit helped the English settlers plant, hunt, and fish. The bountiful harvest that autumn led Governor Bradford to invite the Indians to celebrate God's goodness. Ninety tall braves accepted the invitation to join the Pilgrims in a feast of Thanksgiving to God for His blessings.” 

What lesson did the Pilgrims learn that first Thanksgiving? For one, they learned they needed God. No matter how hard they had labored, they had to face issues beyond their control to survive. Who could have anticipated the harshness of that winter’s weather, and the diseases that would strike them? Even after doing their best, they were not masters of their own destiny. They also learned they needed others to help them cultivate the land, and each other to lean on through those tough times. No wonder the Pilgrims and Indians joined together for a celebration of thanksgiving. What they had to be most thankful for was their relationship together.

As we approach another Thanksgiving holiday, there is so much for which we can grateful. God has richly blessed us, in spite of all the difficulties we face individually, or as a nation. And while it is good to thank God for the blessings of life, those blessings are dependent on the provision of God. We can still be thankful for a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, even if the stuff of life is not as abundant as we would like. Paul reminds us, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13).

We should be thankful for having relationships with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. In difficult times they are there to encourage us and lift our spirits. In good times, they are there to rejoice with us. It’s not what we can get out of them that counts, as much as it is what they mean to us. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His loving kindness is everlasting” (Psa. 136:1). “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10). Where would we be without God and Christ, without each other in Christ? 

This Thanksgiving, be thankful you have family and friends to be with. Be thankful for the memories of family and friends who are no longer with you. Be thankful for all the material blessings God offers you, and the spiritual blessings provided in Christ. Be thankful for the nation we live in, even with the problems it has. Be thankful for the specifics of your life that enable you to have the quality of life you have. But most importantly, be thankful for having a relationship with God, with Christ, and with each other in Christ. These relationships will carry us on when the possessions of life pass. Without these relationships, what would we be, and where would we be? What hope would we have? “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:3-6).

μαράνα θᾶ (1 Cor. 16:22)