It was a time of serious stock market losses, deep disappointment over greed and selfishness in high places, and palpable national anxiety over the economic days to come.
No, we’re not talking about the Fall of 2008, but the Fall of 1933. It was in that year that the newly elected president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (FDR) assured a nervous nation with these words:
“May we recall the courage of those who settled a wilderness, the vision of those who founded the Nation, the steadfastness of those who in every succeeding generation has fought to keep pure the ideal of equality of opportunity and hold clear the goal of mutual help in time of prosperity as in the time of adversity… May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another…for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the bettering of mankind.”
These words, taken directly from FDR’s 1933 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, seem to have unusual relevance for us as 2008 comes to a close. They challenge us to consider the many reasons why we should give thanks even during these difficult days.
First and foremost, it is a season for us to give thanks for the constant provision of God in our lives. Jesus taught us in the Lord‘s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread…” All of us can look back on the last year and see clearly that God has given us our daily bread – and much more. We have enjoyed adequate shelter, warmth, valuable friendships, the blessings of democracy, and countless gifts too many to number.
It is also a season to give thanks that our nation has always come together to face challenging times. As FDR said, we can draw courage recalling the “steadfastness of those who in every succeeding generation. . .hold clear the goal of mutual help in time of prosperity as in the time of adversity.” It is in the very soul of the American people to tum to each other rather than on each other when times get difficult. We shall do so again.
We can also give thanks that God comes to our aid as we call out to Him. The Scriptures assure us, “Call unto me and I will answer you. ..” (Jeremiah 33:3). Indeed, Roosevelt believed in a “brighter day” which the nation could obtain “by seeking the help of God.”
As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, let’s not be lured into focusing exclusively on our losses or setbacks. Instead, let us give thanks for the many blessings and gifts we enjoy.
In 1939, President Roosevelt came up with his own “economic stimulus plan”. In a noble attempt to help merchants gain more shopping days to sell their wares, he proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the fourth rather than the fifth Thursday of November. He, in effect, created two Thanksgivings as some states still observed the traditional date. It ignited a firestorm of controversy and was eventually rescinded by Congress in 1941.
We don’t need two Thanksgivings to show our gratitude to God for all His goodness to us this last year. If our spirits are thankful, and our hearts full of appreciation, one Thanksgiving will be more than enough.
The Law Offices of MarkS. Knutson, S.C