Do you ever feel as if we live in uniquely perilous times?

War has beset both Ukraine and Israel. Inflation has run rampant and real wages have fallen. Hundreds of thousands of babies are aborted every year. Many schools indoctrinate children with sexual and “transgender” propaganda. The American electorate is deeply divided. And our nation is headed towards another expensive and contentious presidential election.

The deep, existential, and grave moral issues our country is facing can feel disquieting and overwhelming.

But this isn’t the first time America has experienced great tribulations – in fact, there’s nearly always some pressing issue at stake.

Just consider the great many wars America has faced in her short history: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, WWI and WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. Our country has faced – and made it through – the Panics of 1819 and 1907, the Great Crash, the Great Depression and the attacks on September 11, 2001.

This side of eternity, trials and tribulations are the lot we have been dealt.

So, what’s a Christian to do amid troubling and difficult times?

Give thanks.

President George Washington issued the very first Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on October 3, 1789. He designated November 26, 1789, the first National Day of Thanksgiving selected by the government of the United States.

Subsequent presidents followed suit, including John Adams and James Madison.

Following Washington’s example, President Abraham Lincoln officially issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on October 3, 1863, to encourage Americans to set aside November 26 for prayer and thanksgiving.

If you haven’t taken time to read Lincoln’s Proclamation – issued during the height of the Civil War, with suffering and death overwhelming the Union – I encourage you to do so.

Lincoln’s Proclamation is as follows.

Washington, D.C.

October 3, 1863 

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 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, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

If President Lincoln could encourage American citizens to give thanks to Almighty God amidst the Civil War, surely, we can give thanks to God too.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings God has given us and express our gratitude for His bountiful grace and mercy. Author Becky Kopitzke recently appeared on the Focus on the Family Broadcast to share fun ideas to incorporate gratitude into your family’s Thanksgiving traditions. You can listen to “Reflecting on Our Blessings at Thanksgivinghere.

Related articles and resources:

Three Christian Thinkers to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

The Christian History of Thanksgiving in America

Thanksgiving Day Reveals America’s Christian Roots

Reflection on Our Blessings at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Gratitude

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