There are plenty of tales around Thanksgiving. While historians try to break out the supposed truth of what “really” happened, people are still adding pieces of their own making to the legend and story that surround the “first” Thanksgiving. There will be people that will try to paint the Puritans (and other colonists) with a wide disparaging brush (not without some justification). There will be people that will paint the First Nations Peoples with an overly generous brush. Regardless, there were human people involved that, for whatever their reasons, gathered to gather to give thanks.
When Lincoln called for a national observation of Thanksgiving, it was during the Civil War. Some viewed it as a calculated political move, and it probably was. However, there was also the beginning of exhaustion with the whole thing. This was around the time when the Union realized that the war was not going to be quick. In the midst of such turmoil, a time of thanksgiving helped the people to set aside, even temporarily a horrible situation. Also, this is a way of resetting the mind and heart to look at a picture bigger than oneself.
Thanksgiving in praise helps to lighten our hearts, especially when we carry the heavy burdens of loss, trial, finances, and so forth. How it works is somewhat of a mystery, yet science is confirming that thankfulness and gratitude help to rewire our brains. These re-wired brains are more resilient to trials and tribulations. In other words, we are able to withstand the emotional turmoil of trouble when thankfulness and gratitude are foundational elements of our regular practices.
Take Psalm 147, for example. Say it out loud. Does something happen inside? If yes, great! If no, then it’s time to meditate on this Psalm. Recognize who God is and what God has done. These should not be empty words. If they are empty words for you, then you will likely struggle deeply with developing gratitude and thanksgiving.
Moses’ direction to the Israelites prior to the entry into the Promised Land was to set a tone. They hadn’t yet worked for the fruit of the land. They were not to make assumptions. They were not to be arrogant. With the land promised to be fruitful, they were to be thankful that it was. Their hearts were to be full of gratitude toward God for providing it. If we follow along with the story of the Israelites, their focus on themselves and their own ways quickly lead them away from God.
1) Why might ingratitude lead a person away from God?
2) Why do you think gratitude changes your perspective and improve your resilience?
3) Do you think it is important that we have a national observance of thanksgiving? Why?