Counting Your Blessings Every Day
Editor’s note: We encourage you to use this devotion as you celebrate Thanksgiving with your church, your co-workers, and your family. Amidst the turkey and pumpkin pie, take time to reflect on God’s gracious provisions in your life and the wonderful opportunities we have to share our blessings with others.
Counting Your Blessings Every Day
Lanterns swung in the lower decks of the ship as 102 seasick men, women, and children tossed about in a cramped space the size of a volleyball court. All hatches were battened due to severe storms, stealing any hope of fresh air or light. The passengers survived on small rations of dried pork, beans, and fish.
The year was 1620, the ship was the Mayflower, and the people were called Pilgrims. Their faithful God sustained them as they prayed and sang praises, despite their dire circumstances.
They reached the New World three months later, but their challenges continued. It was November and winter was quickly approaching. They needed to build homes and clear land so they could plant crops the next spring.
God did meet their needs. By the next fall the cribs the Pilgrims had built held more than enough corn to see them through the second winter. Filled with gratitude, the Pilgrims wanted to honor God for his goodness. Governor Bradford declared a public day of Thanksgiving. Ninety Indians joined in the festivities, bringing dressed deer and wild turkeys. Together, the group celebrated with joy!
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the Pilgrims, the Indians, and that first Thanksgiving Day since childhood. Though fully historical, the events can seem like a once-upon-a-time fairy tale.
History often repeats itself. On August 29, 2005, a different drama unfolded, but it, too, involved treacherous waters, human survival, and the inescapable need for a gracious God who protects and provides.
Getting to the Heart
Refugees from Hurricane Katrina trudged into the church building wearing slippers and sweats. The Bible study group meeting that morning had heard through the prayer chain that New Orleanians were on their way, but no one was fully prepared. The not-quite-real images that had flickered across television screens for days now came to life as hungry, breathing, bone-tired people shuffled through the doorway three feet away.
The six adults and six children had driven to Colorado Springs in two cramped cars. Still somewhat dazed by events of the past week, they sat down next to members of the Bible study group. The introductions began. Each refugee’s name seemed vitally important - a rare and precious personal remnant of a previous life.
Then the Bible study group members began to pray aloud, overwhelmed by the pain and need they saw and hoping not to sound trite. Still in shock, the refugees did not cry, but the compassion of Jesus flowed in quiet tears from the eyes of the others. One newcomer managed to whisper that her mother was still missing and that other family members were somewhere in Texas. Words faltered and lacked eloquence, but the hearts of the faithful reminded the Lord Jesus of his promise:
God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 KJV
“All their needs, Lord, all their needs - please! And show us how to be part of your answer to our own prayers!”
Later, as cars left the church parking lot, every one of the passengers counted their blessings. Garage doors that open at the push of a button! Rooms that light up at the flip of a switch! Clean running water and hot showers! Warm, dry beds! Food from a stove, not a Red Cross trailer or a fast-food restaurant! So many blessings, once taken for granted, now too numerous to count.
In the months that followed, the Lord answered the prayers of his people even more abundantly. Missing and displaced relatives were reunited. Refugees found work and gradually replaced the mismatched, ill-fitting clothing donated to get them through resettlement. New friends, new jobs, new homes, a new life - for many, a life even better than before.
The families and individuals who survived Hurricane Katrina and the Pilgrims who survived their transatlantic journey share much in common. Both left their homes, relying on God’s provision and help. Both faced innumerable dangers and overwhelming odds. Both received help from total strangers, and both found their hearts brimming over in thanksgiving and praise as their faith was first shaken, and then strengthened. Both received a new life in a new world.
The apostle Paul wrote about the challenge of neediness and the joy of knowing God’s provision:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
Philippians 4:11 - 12 KJV
Just as God blessed Paul, the Pilgrims, and the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, so he wants to bless us every day, in every situation. We know his immense love for us because we have seen his only Son hang, bleed, and die on Calvary’s cross for us:
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Romans 8:31 - 32 KJV
Blessed by our saving God, we can in turn bless others, without reservation, knowing that in Christ Jesus, God will supply all our needs.
Taking It Home
As you count your blessings this Thanksgiving season, why not consider ways you might bless someone else? Take turns around the Thanksgiving table and tell how you plan to show your thankfulness to God by blessing someone else.
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