Oh give thanks unto the Lord;
For He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
(Psalm 136:1 NKJV)
We live in a world of unrest, uncertainty, and unpredictability, yet God's Word encourages us not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Traditionally, it is a time when we gather with family and friends to enjoy a bountiful feast of our favorite holiday foods. This American custom commemorates the 101 Christian men, women, and children who made the perilous 66-day journey across the Atlantic Ocean, seeking religious freedom in the New World. Only fifty-one survived that harsh first year. Despite their losses, they expressed their gratitude for God's provision as they shared their harvest table with the Indians who had taught them to fish and grow corn.
Interestingly, it was President Abraham Lincoln who, during the Civil War of 1863, wrote a proclamation establishing a special day for all people to give thanks to the Lord in perpetuity:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come; others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart, which is habitually insensitive to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens. In testimony, whereof, I have hereunto, set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Lincoln understood the importance of I Thessalonians 5:18, which says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Giving thanks acknowledges our trust and faith in our Creator. In other words, we say, "Lord, I may not understand, but I praise You in the midst of these circumstances, and I choose to trust and give thanks to You. For You are a good God."
In 1973, the country was going through a rapid and alarming downturn in the economy. I was a divorced, single mother of a two-year-old son. Multiple companies were firing huge numbers of employees. Rumors swirled that our company planned to fire several hundred people; however, God's peace was with me as I continued to trust and praise Him.
The day before Thanksgiving, my boss called me into his office to inform me that the company had determined my job was nonessential; therefore, I was being terminated. I assured him that God had a plan for my life and that everything would be fine. Of course I had no clue what that plan was, but I was confidant that God would make it known to me.
God often uses people to reveal His plans. A very good friend urged me to return to college and finish my degree. My confidence level was at an all time low after having been in an abusive marriage. Yet I knew that with God, anything is possible. So, I pursued the possibility of taking classes, and within a very short period of time, God made a way. My tuition and books were paid through a scholarship fund, and I obtained employment through the campus work-study program, which allowed me to work around my classes. The Lord took care of every detail including daycare.
Psalm 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." My son and I always had food to eat, and I was able to pay the bills.
God's provisions are limitless; He owns all the silver and the gold (Haggai 2:8). Therefore, His storehouse never runs out to those who have surrendered their life to Him.
The Puritans had lost half of their community, yet they gave thanks to Almighty God for what they did have. President Lincoln, in the middle of a Civil War, called a nation to give thanks for God's blessings. There were many who viewed my firing as a disaster, but it was one of the greatest blessings in my life. It enabled me to complete my degree with honors and eventually teach college.
God wants to do great and marvelous things in our lives. All we have to do is trust, believe, give thanks, and receive. Proverbs 3:5 urges us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding. For the Lord says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God looks for those who will trust Him.
Every day is an opportunity to give thanks to God. So, when we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, let us voice our gratitude for what the Lord has already done for us, knowing that He is our provider and protector who keeps us from all harm and watches over our coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:7-8).
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!