By Annette Halsey
Fresh cranberries are available in the grocery store—which, when boiled with water and sugar make an excellent topping for roasted butternut squash. The air is getting crisp and chill. Once again, November has come, and Thanksgiving is here.
Generally, among the line-up of US holidays, I like Thanksgiving. I enjoy having a celebratory meal with family or friends, and learning the history behind the holiday. Thanksgiving is (or is remembered as) a feast started by the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were a group of English Christians who wanted to worship God the way they understood the Bible, which was not allowed in England. They tried moving to Holland, but after a number of years realized the difficulties in passing down both their values and their language to their children while living there.
In an effort to follow God and raise their families to do the same, they made a difficult trip to a new continent, where they lived even more difficult lives. The first winter, many of the Pilgrims died of sickness, and all faced starvation. They did not mark the graves of their dead, because they feared the native peoples would attack them if they knew how few persons were left. The next spring, they were blessed to be able to make friends with some of the locals, and one of those locals taught the Pilgrims how to plant native crops. In the fall of 1621, William Bradford, the governor, records that they gathered in “the small harvest they had” and also an abundance of fish and game. And the Pilgrims thanked God.
Looking at Thankfulness :
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica to “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 CSB). I don’t know all the details of the Pilgrims’ theology. Nor do I think they were perfect in every way. Since they were human, I can be pretty sure that they messed up majorly at times. However, they are remembered for rejoicing, praying, and thanking God, and that is something worth emulating. There are so many ways my Father in heaven has blessed me, and it both changes my heart and glorifies Him when I thank Him for those blessings.
I have thanked God for health and successful plans; for individuals, love, and kindness; for food on the table and being able to pay bills. Ironically, as I continue to think of what God has done for me, I have also started thanking Him for the trials in my life. When times are hard, I have prayed hard. When I have run out of options for fixing problems, God’s care shines through. When God brings me successfully through difficult situations, I have an amazing testimony of His power and planning (see Psalm 50:15). I have also seen God use trials to prepare me for harder tasks, or to minister to others in a way I was incapable of doing before. For example, I have learned greater compassion after struggling through issues or situations I had never faced before, and can relate to others who have run out of strength.
Looking at Trials:
Occasionally I have not enjoyed Thanksgiving, and consequently have had a hard time thanking the Lord for trials—when I am going through a trial. Trials involve pain, tiredness, and uncertainties. Being done with a trial and testifying to the Lord’s faithfulness is a joy; the trials themselves are NOT a “joy.” However, when I turn to the Bible I read:
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 CSB)
“…now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 CSB)
The goal of my life is to one day stand before Jesus, and hear,
“Well done, good and faithful servant! … Share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:21 CSB).
Trials give me the opportunity to learn endurance and to become a mature disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. My entrance into the Kingdom is secured, because it is dependent on Jesus, not on me (John 6:47); but He has entrusted me with time and talents here in this life, and wants me to use them to serve Him. When He allows a trial to come my way, He is allowing me a greater opportunity to trust Him by obeying Him when I can’t see the next step.
There is another way trials benefit me: they shift my focus from joy in this present life. When I live in a pleasant house, everyone I love is healthy and doing well in life, and I can afford large meals and traveling for holidays, life feels good. God created this world to be good, and I appreciate what is good and thank Him for that. During trials—when those I love die or are sick; when life is a struggle through all the lies that people tell for their own gain; or when money, comfort, and peace are distant—I remember that this world is broken. Though I am working here for now, it is only a temporary assignment. One day, I am going to be gone from here, and I am not coming back until the King of Kings is reigning over all the earth (Revelation 21 & 22).
Until then, I struggle on. Often, I lose my temper, or focus on whatever future event I hope might happen that I hope might possibly end the current trial. This Thanksgiving, I want to focus on my sure hope—the faithful Lord, Jesus Christ—and the event that I know will end this difficult struggle; His soon return.
Until then, may I pray:
“Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this trial. Thank You for the opportunity to serve You with the life I have, instead of wasting it. Thank You that You are always faithful, and that You will provide a way to get through this trial while glorifying You. You know I am weak, and want this brokenness to end—please, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” (Prayer based on the above passages, plus 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Revelation 22:20)
May you have a blessed Thanksgiving and know the sure hope of Christ Jesus through your trials.
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