With the American Thanksgiving holiday approaching, I decided to read William Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation. In it, this governor of the Plymouth Colony shares his account of the Pilgrims’ voyage to the New World and the early years of their settlement.
The Pilgrims endured many hardships. The two-month voyage aboard the Mayflower was grueling and treacherous. Many of the passengers became extremely ill with scurvy and pneumonia. In their weakened condition, they arrived at their destination right at the start of winter. The shelters they constructed did not keep them warm, and they had little food left over from their ship’s provisions. By the end of winter, disease and malnutrition had taken the lives of nearly half of the colonists.
Still, they kept their focus on God and remained grateful. Bradford wrote in his journal that after disembarking from the Mayflower, “they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean.” He noted that even after all the illness and death, those who survived continued to thank God for “his loving kindness, and his wonderful works.”
Their attitude exemplified the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 1 Thessalonians 5:18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
American King James Version×: “In everything give thanks.”
Admittedly, this verse can seem like a tall order. It helps to understand that we are being exhorted not to give thanks for everything, but in or during all circumstances. God does not expect us to pretend that the trials we experience aren’t painful, or that all the troubles we’re seeing in the world are somehow positive developments. Clearly the Pilgrims weren’t grateful for the deaths, illnesses and harsh living conditions. But through all the suffering, they still saw God’s hand at work among them.
For me, reading Bradford’s journal was a good reminder of the importance of continually being thankful to God, even in the face of adversity. To sustain this mindset, we need to remind ourselves of God’s magnificent attributes, acts of love and promises, as revealed in the Bible. These are things that we can always cling to, that do not come and go depending on our personal circumstances or current events. In particular, reflecting on the following biblical truths has helped me maintain an attitude of gratitude.
Jesus Christ gave His life so we might live
Jesus sacrificed His life so our sins could be forgiven, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God the Father and inherit eternal life (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×; 2 Corinthians 5:18 2 Corinthians 5:18And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
American King James Version×). We can face our days with hope, knowing that God is involved with us personally and that this life isn’t the end of our existence.
God’s rule is supreme
Whether we’re experiencing economic crises, pandemics, food shortages, wars or some other national or global emergency, God is still on His throne (Psalms 47:8-9 Psalms 47:8-9  God reigns over the heathen: God sits on the throne of his holiness.
 The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong to God: he is greatly exalted.
American King James Version×; Psalms103:19). He sees what’s going on and will intervene as He judges best. He won’t allow anything to happen to thwart His overall plan for us. While Satan is presently “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30 John 14:30Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me.
American King James Version×), it’s only because God has granted that to him for a limited time within the scope of God’s ultimate purposes.
God’s plan cannot be thwarted (Proverbs 19:21 Proverbs 19:21There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
American King James Version×; 21:30; Job 42:2 Job 42:2I know that you can do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from you.
American King James Version×). While God does give us free will and latitude to make our own decisions, He knows how to respond appropriately so that His purposes will go forward.
As supreme Ruler of the universe, God’s power is infinite. His love for us, trustworthiness, justice, fairness, patience, goodness, mercy and wisdom are all integral to who He is. We can put our total confidence in God’s righteous rule and leadership.
God will provide our needs
When we ask God for help, He will meet all of our needs, both physical and spiritual (Philippians 4:19 Philippians 4:19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×). The solutions He provides may not always be what we had in mind, but God will take care of us. That includes providing sustenance (Matthew 6:31-33 Matthew 6:31-33  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.  But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×), protection (Psalms 91:2 Psalms 91:2I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
American King James Version×, Psalms 91:5-7 Psalms 91:5-7  You shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day;  Nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday.  A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you.
American King James Version×), healing (James 5:14-16 James 5:14-16  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
American King James Version×) and guidance and direction (Proverbs 16:9 Proverbs 16:9A man's heart devises his way: but the LORD directs his steps.
American King James Version×). Even when we get into trouble, God will give us the resources we need to make it through those times (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version×).
God won’t abandon us
As long as we haven’t rejected God, He will not fail or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6 Deuteronomy 31:6Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD your God, he it is that does go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×, 8; Psalms 37:28 Psalms 37:28For the LORD loves judgment, and forsakes not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
American King James Version×; John 14:18 John 14:18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
American King James Version×). God has a great vision for what we can become, and He will finish the work He has started in us (Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×).
Trials are growth opportunities
All human beings face difficulties, setbacks and challenges. Without a relationship with God, problems are just a source of frustration and distress. But when we’re seeking God’s involvement in our lives, He will bring forth good from the storms we face. Hardships can show us where we fall short spiritually, stir us to pray, drive us to study the Bible and help us to develop godly character.
James 1:2 James 1:2My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;
American King James Version×says to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” The suffering itself isn’t what’s joyful, but rather knowing that God is our Master Potter and that trials are a tool He uses to help shape and prepare us for His Kingdom. It’s a blessing to be able to see life’s problems as growth opportunities instead of suffering without purpose.
Eternal rewards will far surpass present suffering
God will grant eternal rewards to those who endure in His ways amid suffering. James 1:12 James 1:12Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.
American King James Version×calls these rewards the “crown of life,” and Romans 8:17 Romans 8:17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
American King James Version×adds that we will be glorified with Christ. The Bible does not tell us everything these rewards entail, but Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
American King James Version×assures is that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Any pain we have to endure in order to be in God’s Kingdom will be worth it (see also 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 2 Corinthians 4:17-18  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
American King James Version×).
Jesus will return to establish the Kingdom of God
We do not have to hope against hope that somehow technology or science will come up with solutions to the world’s problems, or that the “right” politicians will get into power. The Bible assures us that God the Father will send Jesus Christ to the earth to establish His Kingdom (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×; Micah 1:3 Micah 1:3For, behold, the LORD comes forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread on the high places of the earth.
American King James Version×; Matthew 24:30 Matthew 24:30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
American King James Version×; Revelation 1:7 Revelation 1:7Behold, he comes with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
American King James Version×, Revelation 19:16 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
American King James Version×), which is the only way to lasting peace and harmony.
Many today are concerned that nuclear war will wipe out mankind, and while we know turbulent events are ahead of us, Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×promises us that these times will be cut short and that humanity will not destroy itself.
Gratitude is always the right attitude!
Of course, being thankful “in everything” includes the good times too—when we have material blessings like a stocked pantry, a nice home, good health and financial gains, as well as family and friends. Thanking God for the abundance in our lives helps us remember that He is the One who ultimately provides us with everything we have.
When times are tough, we should thank God for His unwavering promises, like those mentioned here, and also remember specific ways He’s intervened in the past. That’s what the Pilgrims did, and it helped them persevere and trust God more fully.
This kind of gratitude will help us too. Thanking God gets our minds off of all the negativity in this world and helps us focus on what has eternal value, reminding us to rely on God’s ongoing helpfulness and kindness and to be faithful to Him.