In September 1620, 102 passengers left Plymouth, England, on a small ship called the Mayflower. They endured 66 days at sea in the tiny vessel that they dreamed would carry them to a better life of land ownership and religious freedom. They reached the tip of Cape Cod, then crossed the Massachusetts Bay a month later to land at Plymouth. While a small group headed to shore to establish their new village, the majority continued to live aboard the ship.
That first winter was dreadful, and only half of the original group survived the bitter cold and outbreaks of disease. When the rest of the settlers finally moved to shore in the spring, they were met by Native Americans who taught them how to plant crops, hunt animals, and live off the land. That fall, they harvested their first corn crop and invited their new friends to celebrate with them. They sacrificed and lost so much. Rather than focus on the difficulties, they chose to respond with thankfulness for what they DID have and keep pressing forward.
Though none of us in 2020 can boast the pilgrimage of settling a colony in a new world, we can most certainly agree that we have spent the year learning to live in a different one. As a country, we have suffered the loss of health, jobs, hobbies, loved ones, face to face contact, and a way of life. So, why sit around a table on a holiday set aside for gratitude and give thanks? We believe there are plenty of reasons.
First, no matter what we have weathered, God is still good and deserves our gratitude. Psalm 100:4-5 admonishes us to “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courtyards with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His faithfulness is to all generations.”
Even when it feels like the world has gone crazy, God is on His throne. He sees us, loves us, and provides for us. He still allows the sun to rise and set, the rain to fall, and the earth to produce food for us to eat. Every new day and next breath are a gift from a faithful God. His mercy is everlasting. Beyond this common grace, certainly, we all have small blessings that make our hearts happy. These call for thanksgiving and His goodness deserves our praise.
Another reason we should give thanks to God in 2020 is our hearts need it. It’s amazing what happens in our hearts when we set our minds on what we have to be grateful for, rather than complain about what we wish were different. This is a Biblical concept.
Philippians 4:4-9 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Thankfulness has a way of refocusing our attention and elevating our perspective. When we take our anxious thoughts to the Lord in prayer, it makes our burden lighter. God takes our concerns, fears, and worries for today and the future and replaces them with His peace. Did you catch the last part of that verse? God will give us peace that’s beyond our understanding to guard our hearts and minds. But our part is to rejoice and give thanks in all things and all circumstances.
Though this year has been filled with unexpected twists and turns for us, God has not been surprised. He knew a global pandemic was coming. For many of us, quarantine and lock-downs allowed us to strip away all the excess and focus on the essential people and things in our lives. Families temporarily traded baseball practices for board games, fast food drive-throughs for kitchen tables, and hectic lives for more connection than we wanted. Husbands and wives slowed long enough to get reacquainted with the stranger sleeping next to them. And some found the hope of Jesus when nothing else seemed to make sense.
Several years ago, we started a tradition we call the Thankful Tree. On November 1st, we set out a jar filled with bare twigs. Every day we take a colorful cardstock leaf and write down something we are thankful for to hang on our tree. As the leaves fall and the weather turns cool outside, our home and hearts are warmed by counting our many blessings.
We are grateful for our marriage, for our children, our parents, and our friends. We’ve been blessed to launch this new Marriage Adventure ministry together. We’re thankful for our home, church, job, and school, food to eat, clothes to wear, baseball, drama, our motorhome, and cheap gas. But, mostly, we are thankful for the gift of a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what the future holds, we can face it with confidence, peace, and thankful hearts. God is in the business of trading ashes for beauty. We simply have to take the time to look for it. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. What are you giving thanks for in 2020?
Thankful for the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie