After landing in the New World, the Pilgrims experienced nothing but hard times. Starting their new lives from scratch, they had to work hard just to satisfy their basic needs. Simple shelter and food came to these families only after strenuous toil and back-breaking labor. Many men, women, and especially children died of starvation. Their difficulties were real and their losses were many.

Yet, with an abundance of reasons to complain, they gathered together in thanksgiving. In the midst of almost unbearable hardship they maintained the ability to be thankful. That is precisely what God is asking us to do—be thankful. And being thankful is a choice—a choice we make in the midst of our human hardships; a choice we make in spite of the difficulties presented to us by our human experience.

Many of us have been through tough times and painful tragedies in our lives. We’ve lost family members, been wracked with health problems, and faced financial stress. Some of us have allowed these experiences to turn us bitter and resentful. When we speak we reveal the denial that resides in our souls; when we interact with others the resentment within us becomes apparent. As our approach to life is examined our feeble attempts at manipulation become clear.

Others of us exude warmth and love. We laugh often and have kind words to give to anyone willing to receive them. The joy that finds a home deep within our being percolates there and radiates a gentleness, kindness, and depth of character that speaks volumes about our relationship to God.

Every living human being has heart aches about which we can elaborate. The difference between a complainer and a thankful person is one of attitude. Some of us speak of the tragedy of life as if it alone defines who we are. Others of us choose to stay focused on God, His goodness, His beauty, and His gracious nature. These latter saints are those who have learned the secret of being thankful: it is a lifestyle that we choose to pursue rather than a state of being shaped by our circumstances.

What about us? Are we victims or victors? Are we focusing on the difficulties of a fallen life or are we keeping our eyes on the beauty and nature of a gracious God? Choose to rejoice and be thankful!