The Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) In 2020, this is a challenge. This year many are asking, what do we have to give thanks for? However, it is in times of crisis and trials when we learn what we have to give thanks for. The tradition of Thanksgiving Day is modeled after a Harvest Meal between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans of the Wampanoag Tribe. Thanksgiving days of prayer were often offered in settlement and colonial days. The Continental Congress called for a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer after the enactment of the United States Constitution. In the years following, proclamations of Days of Thanksgiving and Prayer were left to the States—that is, until 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving. This was in the middle of the Civil War, also called the War between the States. Every president thereafter would offer this Proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer—that is, until Franklin Delano Roosevelt would proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer set for the fourth Thursday of November, beginning in 1942. Congress had passed a joint resolution in 1941. This was not done in days of peace but rather as the United States of America was being drawn into World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, a day President Roosevelt called, “A date that would live in infamy.” It is in challenging times when we turn and look for the blessings we have and to God for help to meet the challenges.
In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom recounts her life before, during, and after her time in a Nazi concentration camp. One story tells how she and her sister, along with others in the camp, would read from a copy of the Bible which she was able to get past the guards as they entered the camp. They came to the passage of “Give thanks in all circumstances,” and Corrie said she could not give thanks for the fleas. Their barracks were heavily infested with fleas. However, they learned the reason that the guards would not come into the barracks was because of the fleas. Corrie now gave thanks for the fleas.
A wider perception will lead us to better understanding of what we have. In order to have this perception, we need a wider view of the circumstance. This is why we not only give thanks, but we pray. The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Our prayers of thanksgiving lead us out of anxious thoughts and to the peace which God offers through Jesus Christ. In the midst of crisis, our nation has over and over again given thanks and sought God through prayer. May we in this season of Thanksgiving seek God in prayer.