The winter of 1620-21 at the Plymouth Colony was cold and tragic for the Pilgrims; nearly half of their number died through sickness and accidents. One wonders how they could rise above such losses and by fall be so grateful that they celebrated God’s goodness to them by giving thanks.
While the spring and summer of 1621 were pleasant and a welcome contrast to what they had just come through, the wounds of that first winter must have been hard to overcome. The good harvest and the help of Squanto, Chief Masasoit and their tribe in providing food, as well as teaching them how to survive in this harsh new place so far from home, were causes to be thankful, but the reasons for their amazing attitude of gratitude must have run deeper than those blessings.
Can an abundant harvest and enough to eat make up for the vacant chairs of loved ones at mealtime? Can making new friends take away the pain of losing old ones? Can moving into a new house compensate for the absence of family members?
Why not then enter the second winter bitter over the pain of the past rather than being filled with praise for present provisions?
There is only one answer: these people had developed the ability to be thankful no matter what was going on around them. Their thankfulness was rooted in their acceptance of Biblical teachings that called on them to be thankful all the time.
We can learn from them.
It takes too little to get us down and too much to get us up!
We are too quick to pout and too slow to praise!
Compare our tendency to complain over trifles to the vow of the Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, to be thankful in tough times: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no food; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
Contrast this vow to being upset over the Dow.
What would Habakkuk’s vow do for us now?
It would change the focus of our lives, our homes and the nation. We would be more interested in giving than getting, more eager to worship than to be entertained, more likely to help than to hurt, more positive about the future. A.W. Tozer, the author of many Christian classics, wrote: “Now as a cure for the sour, faultfinding attitude I recommend the cultivation of the habit of thankfulness. Thanksgiving has great curative power. The heart that is constantly overflowing with gratitude will be safe from those attacks of resentfulness and gloom that bother so many religious persons. A thankful heart cannot be cynical.”
One of the great calls to be thankful is found in the Bible in Psalms 103:1-5. Focusing on reasons to be thankful can brighten every day and cause us to rejoice in God’s gracious goodness to us all.
Thanksgiving should be more than a holiday …
It ought to be our way of life.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org