It’s Thanksgiving Week here in the United States, a time we set aside to count our blessings and give thanks to God for his provision.
Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to reflect on the previous year and see how much has changed. Of course, in 2020, a lot has changed, with Covid-19, turmoil in many U.S. cities, and the presidential election.
You have likely seen changes in your life this past year as well. Some of you had medical issues. Others lost a family member, moved, started a new job, got married or divorced, or sent a son or daughter off to college.
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, dating as far back as 1621. In that year, the Plymouth settlers and Wampanoag Native Americans shared an autumn harvest feast, acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving commemorations in the colonies. After that, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states for more than two centuries.
In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving to be held each November.
In part, his proclamation read:
The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
President Lincoln reminded a war-weary nation to stop and remember our collective and individual blessings and bounty. Lincoln knew well that human nature is to forget the source of our blessings, hence the need to set aside a special time to reflect on our blessings, but where they come from. Ultimately, as Lincoln reminded his readers, those blessings come from God.
Recounting our extraordinary blessings, Lincoln believed, would “penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.” Translated to modern English, counting our blessings softens even the hardest of hearts that ignores or takes for granted God’s daily blessings. Such blessings must be acknowledged and given thanks for by all Americans, Lincoln believed.
He invited all Americans, even those living in foreign lands, to pause and give thanks. But he did not stop there. Lincoln also called for “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” That admonition is similar to what is written in the Old Testament book of II Chronicles, 7:14:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Finally, Lincoln commended each of us to be the vessels God uses to care for others in need. Amid the Civil War, the president specifically mentioned caring for those who had become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers. Today, we can utilize Lincoln’s admonition to care for those in our midst who suffer. You can find them in your family, among your friends, and where you work, play, and worship.
Lincoln encourages us during our time of thanksgiving to pray and implore God to intervene. We are to ask the Almighty to “heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” In other words, asking God to heal and restore us as a nation to fulfill his purpose, that we may enjoy the rights laid forth in the Declaration of Independence, to pursue Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
As you enjoy this time of Thanksgiving with friends and family this week, take to heart the words of President Abraham Lincoln. Give thanks for God’s blessings, and remember where those blessings originated. Repent for your personal and our collective sins, look to bless others, and pray for our nation’s healing. By doing so, you can eagerly look forward to God’s blessings and guidance in the coming year, as you humbly give thanks for all, He has done for you this past year.
Dave Ficere is an Author, Editor, and Ghostwriter with over 30 years of experience in broadcasting and writing. When Dave is not writing and editing manuscripts for clients, you can typically find him narrating and producing audiobooks. To learn more about Dave, visit his website or find him on LinkedIn.