Preemptive Thankfulness

November 22, 2021 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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It has become a tradition on this blog during Thanksgiving week to take a moment to reflect on a Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation. Thanksgiving is a holiday birthed by our history and in our land and, each year, the president issues a proclamation meant to focus our attention on all the reasons we have to be grateful.

This year, I’d like to take a moment to remember a Thanksgiving Proclamation that was issued after Thanksgiving on December 26, 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt. He had issued a more traditional Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 8 of that same year, but then, in light of the vicious December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor that lurched us into World War II, President Roosevelt felt the need to issue a second Thanksgiving Proclamation. It read thusly:

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God. The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty. In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States. It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection,” and that every American in his own way lift his voice to heaven. I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me I the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency: in the Armed Services and the Merchant Marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways and airways; in other places of public service to the nation; and in our homes. Now, therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite the attention of the people to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as Thanksgiving Day and I request that both Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, and New Year’s Day, January 1, 1943, be observed in prayer, publicly and privately.

Shortly after Thanksgiving Day 1941 and what was at that point the worst attack on American soil in its history, President Roosevelt issued a proclamation already looking forward to Thanksgiving Day 1942 – nearly a year in advance.

Such a proclamation might, at first, seem tone-deaf. After all, who feels thankful when mourning so much loss, as Americans were after Pearl Harbor? Such a proclamation might also feel premature. After all, by the time Thanksgiving Day 1942 rolled around, wouldn’t the president’s proclamation from the close of 1941 have been long since forgotten? But, despite such concerns, this proclamation was needed.

Gratitude is needed most when history does its worst. For it is at these moments that gratitude focuses us – not so much on what we do or do not have, but on the One to whom we are called to be thankful. Gratitude needs an object. And, as President Roosevelt reminds us in his declaration, the object of our gratitude is rightly God.

It is no secret that 2021 has been a trying year. A pandemic has worn on longer than any of us desired or expected. Political, social, and cultural unrest, upheaval, and distrust have run rampant. And our economic future feels uncertain. How should we respond to times like these? Let’s take a page from President Roosevelt’s book and be preemptively thankful. Thankfulness is not a product of our circumstances, but an orientation of our hearts toward the One who receives our thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Permitting and Preventing Suffering

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