Giving Thanks in a Hard Year

Sometimes I’ve wondered, If I were a Pilgrim, would I have celebrated Thanksgiving? Perhaps after all of the hardships enduring a brutal winter, burying so many family and loved ones, and struggling just to survive, I’m not sure that I would have thought of setting aside three days to give—of all things—thanks. 

But I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the pilgrims lately. Because if they could institute Thanksgiving 1621, surely we can celebrate Thanksgiving 2020. 

If the Pilgrims could institute Thanksgiving 1621, surely we can celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 Click To Tweet

This year has been challenging. It has held losses for many of us—financial, relational, physical, and even emotional. 

But has our year not held blessings as well? Has it truly been harder than that first Thanksgiving when bereaved Pilgrims (families who had dug seven times more graves than they built huts) gathered with their Native American benefactors and together gave thanks to God who preserved and provided for them? 

Like the Pilgrims, we, too, have had many blessings. God has preserved us. He has provided for us. And He promises to freely give His best to us. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). 

If there is anyone whose example teaches us the importance of giving thanks in the hard seasons, it is Jesus Himself. For Jesus gave thanks just before the cross. As He was instituting the Lord’s Supper, that sacred moment as He shared with His disciples the significance of the sacrifice He would be making in just a few hours, He first gave thanks. 

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.—Luke 22:17–19

Jesus didn’t give thanks with selfish motives—to smooth the road ahead. He didn’t give thanks to make Himself feel better or to fulfill an obligation. He gave thanks because He loved the Father and received every gift as from the Father’s hand. 

I don’t know in what ways Thanksgiving 2020 may be different from what you would have hoped. But I do know it is a holiday worthy of our celebration and of our purposeful giving of thanks.

So may we, like the Pilgrims and with our Savior, lift our hearts to the Father in grateful thanksgiving. 

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.—Psalm 136:1