A Continual Feast of Thanksgiving
As our family prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about my recent trip to the Middle East and the Christian leaders I had the privilege of meeting. Beyond their tremendous hospitality, what impressed me most was the attitude of thanksgiving that seemed to encompass them. This gratitude certainly was not because of the absence of challenges or the ease of which they served as pastors and Christian leaders but rather, like the first celebrants of Thanksgiving on American soil, it is their gratitude that shapes their ability to not only survive but thrive in the most difficult of circumstances.
You’ve no doubt read or heard about the Pilgrims and the challenges they faced as they came to America. They came here risking all, not for the freedom of worship but for the freedom of religion: the freedom to believe, live their lives, and teach their children according to those beliefs. What the record shows is that their gratitude was a choice in their circumstance, not a product of their circumstance. As a result of that choice to be grateful, they laid the foundation for the world’s most prosperous and blessed nation.
The late Peter Marshall and David Manuel provided a great narrative of the Pilgrims’ journey to America in their classic book The Light and the Glory.
The Pilgrims arrived in the fall of 1620 just in time to prepare for winter. During that first winter, nearly half of the 102 Pilgrims died, 47 in all. In February, at the height of winter, they were dying at a rate of two per day. Thirteen of the 18 wives died with only three families remaining unbroken by death that first winter. Yet still, they gave thanks. And they remained thankful even though their daily rations would at times consist of one kernel of corn.
Marshall wrote, “These were not like other men. The more adversity mounted against them, the harder they prayed — never giving in to despair, to murmuring, to any of the petty jealousies that split and divide.”
The experiences of the Pilgrims were recorded in the historical work Of Plymouth Plantation, penned by their leader, Gov. William Bradford. Bradford said of the Pilgrims, “Last and not least, they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some ways toward it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”
The Apostle Paul provides the key to this continual feast of thanksgiving in his letter to the Thessalonians, which he wrote from prison, instructing them to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.