Giving Thanks Even when it Seems There’s Little to be Thankful For

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once labeled man as “the ungrateful biped.”

“Give a man everything he wants,” declared Immanuel Kant, “and at that moment, everything will not be everything.”

Yet here we are on the eve of a new Thanksgiving — one of the best times of the year. It’s great to be reminded of our nation’s rich spiritual heritage; a national, annual holiday (with an interesting history) has been set aside to thank God for His many blessings.

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So often it’s tempting to be thankless, as we think about all our problems — including the poor economy, the setback in biblical morality in the culture at large, challenges for the future, etc.

If we’re tempted to hold back our thanksgiving during this Thanksgiving, we should remember the difficulties faced by those who initiated the tradition.

The Pilgrims who founded Plymouth gave thanks and held their day of Thanksgiving (actually three days of Thanksgiving) after God had blessed them with their first harvest in November 1621. They did this, despite the fact that nearly half their number had died within the first few months of arriving on these shores the winter before.

The leader of the Pilgrims declared, “Therefore, I, William Bradford . . . governor of Plymouth, say — through virtue of vested power — ye shall gather with one accord, and hold in the month of November, thanksgiving unto the Lord.”

Jump ahead to the first year of the new nation under the Constitution. On October 3, 1789, from the city of New York (our nation’s capital at the time), President George Washington issued a Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving.

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor. . . . Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks. . . .”

Last year on Thanksgiving I ran a 10k in Miami with thousands of others. One of them blew me away with his positive attitude. He had no legs; he had his torso on a skateboard, and he used very thick gloves as he pulled his way through the 6 miles. I got to speak with him briefly after the run, and I found he had been born that way. But he didn’t let that impediment stop him. He has even participated in marathons, and he has an attitude of gratitude through it all.

The late Dr. D. James Kennedy, my long-time pastor, once called gratitude “the Christian’s magic wand,” because it can transform everything — above all, those who give thanks. Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday — that should be celebrated year round.


Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is co-host of and spokesman for Truth that Transforms with D. James Kennedy (formerly The Coral Ridge Hour). He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation and Answers from the Founding Fathers. Jerry co-wrote (with Dr. Peter Lillback) the bestselling, George Washington’s Sacred Fire.

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