Thankfulness leads to true freedom

Thanksgiving-BrownscombeWould you still be thankful for God’s goodness if it seemed as though He had let your spouse and children be taken by disease in a land you had just dedicated “for the glory of God,” and after having pledged to serve Him faithfully in this endeavor?

Or would you question His faithfulness, even becoming angry and bitter? After all, you did your part, yet He didn’t seem to come through on His end at all.

The reason I use this scenario is because this is exactly what happened to the Pilgrims and, remarkably, the very set of circumstances that led up to the first thanksgiving celebration in America.

Here’s an account of the aftermath of the harsh and cruel winter that greeted the Pilgrims, who we would probably view as an odd religious sect today, almost immediately upon arriving at what would become the Plymouth Colony on December 21, 1620…

Of the original 102 Mayflower passengers, four died before reaching Plymouth. By the summer of 1621 there were another 46 deaths among the passengers, and about 25 deaths among the crew. After the General Sickness, only 12 of 26 men with families and 4 of the 12 single men and boys survived. “All but a few” of the women survived.

Quoting numbers doesn’t do this justice so let’s put it in perspective.

What this account is basically telling us is that most of the families that came here for “the advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country” were absolutely devastated: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children…all lost. In fact, had it not been for the captain of the Mayflower staying until April 1621, none of them would’ve survived, for the Mayflower itself became their only real shelter.

Furthermore, imagine not only losing your own family, but also half of all the people in your “world”…your community…those you counted on…those who you were going to share the rest of your life with…maybe some of them were close friends and relatives….

Yet, amazingly, none of them chose to return to England with the Mayflower, in spite of their nightmarish experience and horrendous loss.

Then something even more amazing happened. In the fall of 1621, when first harvest was finally in, John Carver, the first governor of Plymouth Colony and author of the Mayflower Compact, called for a special celebration of thanksgiving to God!

No bitterness…no anger at God for abandoning them in their hour of greatest need…no running back to their old life…just thankfulness.

We have traditionally looked back at this “first Thanksgiving” and romanticized it with our stories and paintings (like the one above), and remember it every year with all our wonderful traditions. But have we ever considered the unimaginable cost that led these humble Pilgrims to give thanks in the first place?

This makes me wonder what the Pilgrims would’ve thought about all of our “first world” problems that seem to so easily beset us today. It’s so easy to become unthankful when it’s all about us in our comfy “selfie” world.

I also wonder if the God-given freedoms we so cherish in this nation were not, at least in part, birthed from the very womb of the thankfulness to God offered by this small band of worshipers in the face of such extreme suffering.

I do realize that there may be some reading this who have suffered terrible loss of loved ones. It is truly tragic and very painful and should not be minimized. If this is the situation you find yourself in, I want to encourage you. And this is my point…

A thankful heart always leads to true freedom.

The Bible tells us, over and over, to be thankful. That, we all understand. But do we also understand that thankfulness has nothing whatsoever to do with our circumstances and has everything to do with walking in the light as God is in the light?

Being thankful in dire situations and horrific circumstances is the supreme act of faith because the person giving it is truly doing so in spite of everything he or she sees or feels to the contrary (2 Cor.5:7). You can know with certainty that this kind of faith is precious to God and He does not ignore such sacrifice and utter trust (Heb.11:6).

Also know that this declaration of faith in the face of difficulty gives us supernatural strength to persevere and even thrive in the worst possible situations. I like how the Message Bible says it in Habakkuk (bold type added):

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God.
Counting on God’s Rule to prevail,
I take heart and gain strength.
I run like a deer.
I feel like I’m king of the mountain! (Hab.3:17-19 MSG)

Conversely, being unthankful is a sign of unbelief. It reveals a narcissistic self-centeredness that only leads one into darkness and bondage. For instance, here’s what Paul tells us about the unthankful (bold type added):

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Tim.3:2)

because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom.1:21 NKJV)

I will end with two points to consider about thanksgiving.

First, that the Pilgrims had no special holiday in November called “Thanksgiving.” That was invented by us later. What they did have was a daily lifestyle of thanksgiving to God.

And that should be instructive to us.

Second, circumstances don’t make us free, Jesus makes us free. And, in Him, we always overcome every difficulty this life has to offer…we are undefeatable (John 16:33; 2 Cor.2:14)…whether our circumstances change or not.

And that should make us thankful always.

So, to all my American friends, and to everyone around the world, let Paul’s words resonate in your hearts and resound with thanksgiving. And may you and yours be filled with God’s supernatural peace and joy!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:6-7 NKJV)

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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7 Responses to Thankfulness leads to true freedom

  1. Dan LaChance says:

    In addition to all the “usual” blessings I am thankful for (God, family, health, home, employment, etc.), I am thankful that God led me to you, Mel, to increase my understanding of our awesome, all loving Father. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Mel Wild says:

      I’m also thankful for your encouraging comments here, Dan. And may we all learn more and more about how exceedingly wonderful living in the Father’s embrace really is! :)Many blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving.

  2. nancyteague says:

    Wonderful thoughts Mel about the history of the first ‘Thanksgiving’ in our country. Thank you for summing it up.

    What a paradox that out of loss comes great gain. Of course Jesus’ loss of life was truly the biggest gain the world will ever know. And the world for the most part is clueless and thankless. But eternity resounds with thanksgiving because of that loss. Someday ALL will ‘get it’.

    How profound is the dynamic of loss. I guess we could liken loss to the resurrection. Loss will never stay loss. Good, fullness, blessing will always arise out of it. We may not see the impact of loss’ gain in our lifetime, but as God is faithful, it will indeed bring life and thanksgiving somewhere, sometime, to someone.

    Truly the purest form of thanksgiving comes from an eternal perspective. Rich is the person who has been graced by revelation to have a degree of this eternal perspective ‘here and now’. But for those who refuse to ‘see from above’ and be thankful because of loss, will at some point experience thanksgiving first hand. Through their death – Thanksgiving will burst upon them, in all its glory, and they will be speechless with thankfulness.. Now wouldn’t that be something to be speechless with gratitude, right here and now, even around our Thanksgiving meal?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. Great thoughts here also, Nancy…

      “What a paradox that out of loss comes great gain. Of course Jesus’ loss of life was truly the biggest gain the world will ever know. Loss will never stay loss. Good, fullness, blessing will always arise out of it. ”
      Amen. God shows us that love means self-limitation. The ultimate self-limitation was the Eternal Son becoming Man, experiencing the full weight of our darkness and alienation. Finally, He experienced our wrath and enmity on the Cross. But with this loss, He buries our death and raises us up with Him! What joy! What victory! What Thanksgiving!

      “Now wouldn’t that be something to be speechless with gratitude, right here and now, even around our Thanksgiving meal?”
      Yes!!! And this is possible since we are already seated with Him now. When we “look up” and get a revelation of the reality of our life hidden in Christ (Col.3:1-3), speechless gratitude is the result. While we won’t fully see it in this life, we don’t have to wait to get a glimpse of it either. And no loss on this earth can ever defeat us when we see it.

      Have a very blessed Thanksgiving, Nancy…with speechless gratitude in Him. 🙂

  3. nancyteague says:

    Reblogged this on Growing In Fullness and commented:
    Mel Wild has some great thoughts and points about the ‘first Thanksgiving’ and the power of thanksgiving. Wanted to pass it on.

    Wishing you all a lifestyle of thanksgiving – what power is in it! And may you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Cindy Powell says:

    “A thankful heart always leads to true freedom.” Amen. Thankful for many voices declaring His goodness – including yours 😊 Hope you had a wonderful day of giving thanks. We are truly so blessed!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Cindy. Yes, we are truly blessed, more than we could ever understand. And I’m so thankful for your encouraging voice. God certainly gave us a wonderful family! 🙂
      Had a wonderful Thanksgiving (still full!), hope you had one, too.
      Blessings.

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