Photo courtesy of Priscilla du Preez on Unsplash.

At a time when people are questioning the history and origins of this holiday and when life is heavy and hard for so many, the question is legitimate.

Why should I be thankful? And for what?

Gone are the days when kids dressed up as Pilgrims and Native Americans, sharing a meal together. The first Thanksgiving has become a symbol of pain and loss for many Native Americans.

When President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of national Thanksgiving on November 26, 1863, it was in gratitude for a victory at Gettysburg on October 3, 1863, a pivotal win for the Union in the Civil War.

The south lost that battle. Gettysburg tallied more than 23,000 deaths.

When President Roosevelt signed the resolution on December 26, 1941, that established the federal Thanksgiving holiday on the fourth Thursday in November, it was barely three weeks after America entered World War II because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. deaths in that war totaled more than 291,000.

All this reflects pain and loss. Why should we be thankful?

We act as if thankfulness is found only in times of joy and prosperity when life feels right and circumstances are going in our favor.

This year, with COVID keeping many families and friends apart, it feels more like a season of sadness rather than gratitude. There will be many missing from some tables because of the virus; many more who are too ill to participate.

What’s so great about gratitude when life is filled with loss, loneliness, and despair?

Being thankful is a choice, a lifestyle of seeing past problems to the confidence that God has given us something greater. Gratitude doesn’t come easily; it’s choosing to focus on hope, the anticipation of what could be, and the recognition of the blessings that are.

We settle so quickly for discontentment. It seems to be our default when life doesn’t go our way or when someone or something stands between us and our desires. We too easily blame others for our misery.

That makes us self-serving and self-focused. Which will never be a cause for gratitude because we will never have all we want or strive for. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who was imprisoned and then executed by Hitler during World War II, had an attitude about gracious thanksgiving that belied his circumstances. Even while in prison, he understood the gift of gratitude. He said, “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”

God encourages us to be thankful in all things. It’s easy to be gracious when we get what we want. But in the hard spaces of life, where everything feels unfair, when we are unjustly wronged or accused, God encourages us to thank Him for those things. It’s an acknowledgment that He is greater than our circumstances. 

Life is a gift that we haven’t earned. Our stories may not always be how we’d like them written, but we have the choice of how to approach the life we have.

Complaint or gratitude?

Life is enriched with a grateful heart.

Gratitude brings hope.

That’s God’s promise.

 

 

 

5 responses »

  1. Michael says:

    You know I’ve had some trouble with system that comments haven’t gone through and I’ve made some adjustments so I’ll be very thankful if this one ,ales it to you. Thank you for this beautiful gift of gratitude as a choice. There is a Thanksgiving prayer that I keep handy and it closes with “Let me give You proper thanks for Your blessings. Those that I am aware of and those that I take for granted.”

    You inspire me with your posts and I’m thankful I have the choice to read your words. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Like

    • daylerogers says:

      Aw, Michael, those are such kind words and wonderful encouragement at a time when it really matters. I love the end of that prayer–we aren’t always aware of the blessings we have even though there are so many. You have been such an inspiration to me with your wit and warmth and truth–hope your Thanksgiving was one of great enjoyment and experiencing the delight of the Lord!

      Like

  2. Love this blog Dayle–I love the history of Thanksgiving–it gives credence to your point of giving thanks in all circumstances!!

    Like

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