The Tragedy and Triumph of Thanksgiving

Consider these words…

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…

lincolnWith these words, written on October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln began his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation that set aside the last Thursday* of November as a national “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the Heavens“.

President Lincoln then went on to say…

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Such words of gratitude, thankfulness, praise, humility, and repentance. But to understand how profound these words were (and still are), you must understand the context of the times (and year) in which they were written…

  • May 1-3, 1863: The Battle of Chancellorsville (30,500 casualties (killed, wounded, or missing))
  • May 18 – July 4, 1863: The Siege at Vicksburg (37,532 casualties)
  • July 1-3, 1863: The Battle of Gettysburg (over 46,000 casualties)
  • September 18 – 20, 1863: The Battle of Chickamauga (34,624 casualties)
  • September – November, 1863: The Chattanooga Campaign (14,508 casualties)

IMG_5195When President Lincoln penned these words, our nation was engulfed in the heart of the violence, bloodshed, and tragedy of the American Civil War. Yet, President Lincoln chose to find goodness. He chose to look forward with hope to a future of peace, prosperity, and promise. In spite of the hopelessness, despair, death, and destruction that consumed the nation between 1861 – 1865, President Lincoln looked back to better times, and had faith that such times would return.

Maybe this Thanksgiving, you are experiencing anguish, heartbreak, loss, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness. I know that kind of pain is very real, and have experienced it myself. But, I also know of a Savior who bore all of our hurt, pain, anguish, and sin, and now lives victoriously, having conquered all of this and more. The prophet Isaiah put it this way…

Surely He took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered Him punished by God,
    stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him,
    and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
    the iniquity of us all. ~ Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV)

Life is as tough as nails. God never promised us an easy road, and He never promised us a fair shake. But, Jesus DID give us this promise…

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33 (NIV)

Tday-TurkeyXSo this Thanksgiving, if your life is joyous, be thankful for that, and for all of God’s many blessings.

But if you are struggling and sorrowful this Thanksgiving, take heart. Know that the Father loves you, that He is “near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Call to Him now… “the God of all comfort” is just a breath away.

From our family to yours, may you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

* In December 1941, the date for Thanksgiving was officially changed to the fourth Thursday in November.

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