Living life with gratitude has not come easily for me.
I know I should count my blessings, but sometimes it’s just easier to count my miseries. It comes more naturally. And miseries capture my thoughts and interrupt my days more readily than blessings.
But counting my miseries seems to shrink my soul, and in the end I am more miserable than when I began.
Counting my blessings may be arduous at first, an act of obedience rather than an overflow of joy, but in the end it opens up space in my heart.
When I choose to focus on what I have been given, rather than linger on what I’m missing, I feel happier. More content. Less agitated.
And when I choose to face my miseries directly and find blessings in them, something miraculous happens. I view all of life differently. I see my circumstances through a lens of faith. And I am able to declare with confidence that even in the worst of circumstances, God is still good and there is much to be thankful for.
The Pilgrims did just that.
For years I pictured the first Thanksgiving as a joyful celebration of a bountiful harvest, sharing with the Indians God’s abundant provision in a fertile new land.
But celebrating the first thanksgiving was an act of faith and worship, not a natural response to prosperity and abundance.
In the fall of 1620, the Mayflower set sail for Virginia with 102 passengers on board. On December 16 they landed in Massachusetts, far north of their intended destination, just as winter was setting in.
This northern climate was much harsher than Virginia’s, and the settlers were unprepared for the cold season ahead. Winter was harsh and sickness was rampant. Shelter was rudimentary. Food was scarce. People lay dying.
All but three families dug graves in the hard New England soil to bury a husband, wife or child. By spring of 1621, half the Pilgrims had died from disease and starvation. Many crops did poorly and starvation was commonplace. No one was untouched by tragedy.
And yet in the midst of these monumental losses, the Pilgrims chose to give thanks. They saw in Scripture that the Israelites gave thanks for all of God’s provision, for His deliverance and for His grace.
And so they did the same.Continue Reading