The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past

As I was pondering verses on thankfulness this week, I was impressed with the Old Testament thank offering. This was an offering not demanded at certain times of the year, like many of the others in the Old Testament law. Rather it was one that was given of the person’s own free will. Leviticus 22:29 says, “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will.” God gave directions for the offering of thanks and then He told His people to do it because they wanted to. The gift of thankfulness is that it is not coerced.

Often my choice to be thankful is intimately connected with comfort. If I am comfortable, if my life is going smoothly, if we have all we need and the bills are paid, then I readily choose to be thankful. It’s an easy choice; I have a lot to be thankful for. But what about those times of misery and distress? Choosing thankfulness in spite of my discomfort is a challenge.

Did you know that the pilgrims had dug far more graves than the number of houses they built in their first year in the New World? Half of them died from sickness and malnutrition! Yet they still chose to be thankful. Amid all the stress and suffering they experienced in their new environment, they set aside a time for celebration and thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln who served our country during one of its most painful epochs set aside the fifth Thursday of November as a holiday of thanksgiving. He chose thankfulness, not only for himself, but also for our nation.

Our history is replete with reminders that thankfulness is a choice. And when we choose thankfulness, we are the recipients of great joy, because thankfulness is the soil in which joy flourishes.


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