Sacrificial Gratitude: A Thanksgiving Reflection

Demonstrating gratitude when times are tough is definitely a choice. But it is the right choice, because choosing to be thankful is precisely what allows a fresh wave of the creativity, grace, life, and peace of God’s presence to wash over us. The Psalmist says it this way:

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to the one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Psalm 50.23, ESV

When we honor and thank God, especially when it is a sacrifice to do so, we “order our way rightly,” and God is able to unleash His divine rescue plan into all aspects of our lives. Our health, finances, relationships, and even our cultures and our governments are directly impacted by the people of God’s capacity and willingness to thank God, even when we are afraid, hurt, or worried.

In New Hampshire, we have a rich heritage of godly government leaders who understood this dynamic. In 1793, one of New Hampshire’s two signers of the Declaration of Independence, 63-year-old Josiah Bartlett, was serving as Governor. George Washington and John Adams had started their second terms as the fledgling nation’s first president and vice-president. The summer had been a hot and dry one in New England, and many crops and herds were in jeopardy. In August, Philadelphia was in the grips of an outbreak of Yellow Fever. Across the Atlantic, France’s own revolution was reaching a fever pitch. Louis XVI had been guillotined earlier in the year, and the Reign of Terror was sending tens of thousands to their death by execution or imprisonment.  Despite these domestic and international threats, Governor Bartlett, with the support of the Legislature and the Executive Council, proclaimed Thursday November 21st, 1793, to be a day of public Thanksgiving. You can read the proclamation’s entire text here, but several of Bartlett’s praises and petitions are worth highlighting (emphases mine):

“…He [Almighty God] was graciously pleased to appear for us in the course of the summer past when, by reason of a severe and early drought, the hope of the husbandman seemed likely to be cut off and we were threatened with a great and general scarcity of the necessary fruits and of the field, that in the midst of judgment He remembered mercy and by sending plentiful showers of rain, the decaying and almost dying fruits of the earth were greatly revived;…”

“That He had been pleased to continue to us the inestimable blessings of civil and religious liberty.”

“That notwithstanding the tumults and confusions of the contending nations, we still enjoy the blessing of peace and good government.”

“That we have been favored with a general measure of health, and that no wasting and pestilential disease has been suffered to prevail among us.”

“That it would please Him still to have these United States under His Holy protection and guidance – that He would inspire those who have the management of all our public affairs with all that wisdom, prudence and integrity that is necessary to the faithful discharge of their important trusts, that all their determinations may tend to promote the real happiness and prosperity of this great and rising Republic,…”

“That it would please God to over-rule the tumults and confusions among the nations…

“That God would be pleased to look down with an eye of compassion upon the whole human race, and dispel those clouds of ignorance, superstition, and bigotry that overspread so great a part of the world, and that the knowledge and reverential love and regard to the One God and Father…may pervade the hearts, and influence the lives of all mankind…

Reading Governor Bartlett’s proclamation stirs up similar sentiments in our own hearts. 

We are thankful for the overwhelming abundance that a free-market system permits, and we pledge to care for our friends who, even in New Hampshire, are food insecure this fall. 

We are grateful for the civil and religious liberties we do have, praying that we don’t surrender them to state or federal executives and judicial officers who seem all too willing to step over the Bill of Rights and the consent of the governed.

We pray that America’s unique design of limited government and a respect for civil liberties is not spoiled by domestic and international pressures towards communism, globalism, and socialism, and by the intellectual and material poverty that always accompany them.

We are thankful for our heroic first responders and medical personnel, praying that COVID-19 claims no more lives in NH; and we pledge our reason and our resources to fight the pandemic, with God’s help.

We are grateful for the sacrifices of our newly elected and newly appointed civil servants–executive, legislative, and judicial, at the federal, state, and levels—praying that they do not abuse the trust they have been given, but rather choose integrity at every turn.

And we are thankful for our sovereign, loving God and Father, praying that He would bring order to the swirling chaos of our nation and the nations of the world in such a way as to bring glory to His name and peace to His people.

As New Hampshire Governor Josiah Bartlett understood so well 227 years ago, in spite of the challenges of our times we have much to be thankful for, and our sacrificial gratitude on this Thanksgiving of 2020 will release God’s perfect will into our world’s broken ways.