On November 11, 1620, a group of weary travelers ended their 66-day journey over the stormy Atlantic Ocean and arrived at what we now know as Plymouth, Massachusetts. The voyage was difficult, however the travelers' trials had only begun. The harsh New England winter eventually claimed 45 from the 102 Mayflower passengers.
Just as the Pilgrims were able to give thanks when confronted with trials, we can be grateful too since we have so much to be thankful for in these tough times.
In spite from the great loss and continued struggle, one year after their arrival the Pilgrims gave thanks for what God had given them. This was their prayer:
O Lord our God and heavenly Father, which of Thy unspeakable mercy towards us, hast provided meate and drinke for that nourishment of our weake bodies. Grant us peace for their services reverently, as from Thy hands, with thankful hearts: let Thy blessing rest upon these Thy good creatures, to the comfort and sustentation: and grant we humbly beseech Thee, good Lord, that as we doe hunger and thirst with this food of our bodies, so our soules may earnestly long after the food of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.
This prayer is really a model for giving thanks. Although the Pilgrims had lost so much throughout the first winter and were battered and weary, they understood that everything they had received-every \”perfect gift\”-had come from the perfect Gift Giver, so they looked to the new harvest and gave thanks. The Pilgrims could have celebrated their own hard work and perseverance, however they didn't. They celebrated God.
Content in each and every Circumstance
It was the right thing to do. Paul reminds us, \”Whatever you do in word or deed, try everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father\” .
The Pilgrims were thankful with this harvest because they knew it was a gift from God, but it didn't stop there. They also sought God's direction and guidance to make use of these resources for his glory even while plagued with struggles and uncertainty. They prayed, \”Grant us peace to use them reverently, as from Thy hands, with thankful hearts.\”
Again, I'm reminded of Paul's words:
I began to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, i know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the key of being filled and going hungry, each of having abundance and suffering need. I'm able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
We too seek to do God's will using the gifts he's given us, no matter life's circumstances. When we use God with little or with much and concentrate on using the gifts we must build his kingdom, we do not become distracted by despair or doubt. Instead, we become overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
For the Pilgrims, the harvest meant survival. They knew the real story of reality included more than this physical world, though. They kept their concentrate on the only things that would sustain them no matter their circumstance-Jesus, his cross, and Heaven beyond it. They pleaded to God for their souls to never grow satisfied with anything but Christ.
These were a people who embodied Paul's words: \”For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us\” .
We Can Give Thanks Too
This last year has been hard for Americans. It was a year of COVID-19 lockdowns, masks, a struggling economy, rioting, looting, topped off by a contentious presidential election. It's been annually in which many might find it difficult to be thankful.
However, just as the Pilgrims were able to give thanks in the face of trials, we can be grateful too since we've so much to be thankful for even in these tough times. We remind ourselves that everything we have is a gift from God for use for God, and that our hope is not found in the things of this world however in Christ alone.
Jonathan Noyes holds a master's degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and it is now a speaker with Are in position to Reason. He also serves around the board of directors for Life Without Limbs and at Beacon Hill Classical Academy, where he teaches discipleship.