After a biting winter where disease and starvation stacked up body after body, the pilgrim separatists must have wondered as King David did in Psalm 43:5, “Why are you downcast, O my Soul? Why are you disturbed within me?”
It wasn’t an absurd question. For those who remained, their spirits must have been in agony, asking if all the lost lives had merited a voyage over the Atlantic and into this merciless frontier. And still more disquieting, the survivors had to carry on, unsure of when or who Death would take by the hand next.
Nearly a year later, following a plentiful autumn harvest, these same Pilgrims set aside a festival of gratitude to the Lord for His provision. They had, through thick anguish, grasped what King David affirmed in the latter half of Psalm 43:5, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
This Thanksgiving, some of us may despair because of suffering or despair or a loss of some kind, as the Pilgrims all experienced. Whatever the affliction, it has most likely left us wondering, “Why am I so downcast? And why can’t I find my way home to God and hope in Him this thanksgiving?”
For these kinds of questions, there seems to be a spreading silence in response to our petitions for an explanation. The only utterance we detect is the Holy Spirit’s directive,”Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In lieu of our personal pains, such a command seems brutal, and so it also must have been for the Pilgrims. Yet, rather than murmuring, they collected themselves and gave thanks for what they had as well as what remained. Each had lost friends, family members, or spouses, but instead of being bitter, they knew their raw grief was a sign of just how thankful they were for the ones who were lost.
All of us have lost something as well, whether it be health, dreams, relationships, or deceased loved ones. We may be despondent, yet also believing for providence. Amidst all the cobwebs of doubt, in each of us, there is a place hidden with belief in God’s providence.
This Thanksgiving, give thanks for what was, because if what was lost meant little, there would be nothing to mourn. Once we are grateful for the time we had with that which we lost, we then can become full of hope, even if it is heavy with burdens.
For many, this thanksgiving may taste like bitter bread of the stinging winter, but remember that the spring comes eventually, as does the fall harvest—the restoration of what has been withered. And it is when this thanksgiving, though it may not be this year, you will be able to whisper this verse with understanding in a year or in the coming months:
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”-1 Peter 1:6-7
This time of autumn is when I would be pounding the cross-country trails, yet I type this piece from my college campus with permanent nerve damage and chronic pain from a spinal condition in my back and lags. For some years now, I have clutched a raw craving to receive a miraculous healing so that I might avoid spinal fusion surgery and gain a release from all the permanent damage that has been done. I don’t reveal this to curry sympathy or cast myself as some snakebitten hero, but rather, to demonstrate that I don’t write as one who is looking down from the mountaintop.
Though my own pain is paltry compared to some of those in the body of Christ this thanksgiving, I admit all this to convey that, I too, yearn for something that was lost. But thanksgiving is coming in a week, and though I don’t glimpse the bountiful harvest in this particular prayer, this is what I hold dear—that I did get to run those trails and compete in other sports for a time with full health. And somewhere, folded away, there is a hope for a future thanksgiving, when I can run those trails once more.
As to those of you who suffer far worse, your thanksgiving is approaching in time and the blessed harvest is nearing. You might not spot it in the distance now. However, in the secret places of your spirit, give praise to God for what you now have and what will be, so that we all might worship, humming: Then Sings my Soul, my Savior God to Thee… How Great Thou Art, How Great Thou Art.
Happy thanksgiving everyone.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find me on Facebook under “Kevin Cochrane,” or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males (views on my blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com are my own and do not necessarily represent those of The Majesty’s Men). To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.