Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
As many times as I have read William Bradford's account of the Pilgrims and their first year in Massachusetts, I am still quite taken back by what I read. Bradford, who had become governor of the small colony of those who had survived the difficult trip across the Atlantic, was faced with the nearly impossible task of overseeing this group that was ravaged by death and disease. Later, Bradford would write of that first year (1620-21), "In two or three months (nearly) half of our company died, especially in January or February…That of the 100 and odd persons scarcely fifty remained." In fact, of the 102 who had boarded the Mayflower, only 44 were still alive by the fall of 1621. It was then, in late September or early October, after having shot some wild turkeys with their muskets (and the "ninety Indians" having brought five deer), a joint festival of Pilgrims and Indians was held. And what was the purpose of this festival? According to William Bradford it was that they might feast on the fruits of their labors, "thanking God Almighty for HIS CARE AND PROVISION for them." It is those words in caps that get me every time. Over half the people were DEAD and they were gathering to thank God Almighty for "His care and provision for them."
Have you had anyone close to you die this past year? Are you prepared to give thanks to God Almighty for His care and provision for you?
Many, even at the time of this festival, were sickly. There was real concern that the food being eaten would be the last really good meal that any would have for a long time. Indeed, according to Bradford, the harvest that was taken in just before that first Thanksgiving Meal was so pitiful that days afterwards the food had to rationed so that those alive might possibly survive until next year's harvest. Are you eating some of your last food? If so, are you thankful to God Almighty for His care and provision for you?
Susana White was left a widow that first year; Samuel Fuller watched both of his parents die; Edward Winslow lost his wife.
It just seems to me that we have it SO GOOD, that we are surrounded by SO MUCH BOUNTY, that we enjoy SO MANY FREEDOMS, and that our lives are characterized by SUCH EASE, that it is difficult for us to even begin to comprehend what these Pilgrims – our spiritual ancestors – went through.
I don't know that we should feel guilty about any of this. I'm not for laying guilt on any of us for enjoying life and its pleasures. But if we are not incredibly thankful for all that we have, we have an ongoing sin problem that is far deeper than we realize.