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The Story of Thanksgiving

line The Story of Thanksgiving

Pause and Consider



‘The Story of Thanksgiving’


For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

It is important to remember the spiritual origins of our Thanksgiving holiday.  There is much more to the story than a turkey dinner.

The Atlantic crossing in the fall of 1620 had been an extremely difficult journey. For two months, 102 people were wedged into what was called the ‘tween decks’—the cargo space of the boat, which only had about five-and-a-half feet of headroom.  No one was allowed above deck because of the terrible storms.  This was no pleasure trip, but God sustained every one of the Pilgrims through the voyage.

God providentially protected His people in many ways.  The Mayflower normally carried a cargo of wine; and the wine spillage from previous voyages had soaked the beams, acting as a disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease.  During one terrible storm, the main bean of the mast cracked.  Death was certain if this bean could not be repaired.  But one of the Pilgrims had brought along a large iron screw, likely for a printing press.  This was used to repair the beam, saving the ship and all on board.

After 66 days at sea, land was sighted off what is now Cape Cod, MA.  But that was not where the Pilgrims wanted to be.  They had intended to establish their new colony in the northern parts of Virginia, but two factors interrupted their plans.  The winds had blown them off course, and some Englishmen who wanted to settle the same location had bribed the crew to take them off course.

Once again, God was in charge and the Pilgrims landed exactly where God wanted them to be.  Had they landed where they intended, they would most certainly have been attacked.  Instead, there were no Indians on Cape Cod when the Pilgrims made landfall there.  The land had already been cleared and the fields had already been cultivated, but those Indians who had prepared the land had died of the plague.

Despite the provision of safety from local Indians, the Pilgrims barely survived their first winter.  Only four families escaped without burying at least one family member. But God was still faithful.  In the spring of 1621, He sent Squanto to the Pilgrims, an Indian who spoke their own language and who offered to teach them how to survive in this strange new land.   He was one of the few Indians from that area who had not died from the plague.  Captured as a young man and taken to England as a slave, he mastered the English language, and was later freed to return to his native territory shortly before the Pilgrims arrived.  He greatly helped the Pilgrims by teaching them to fish and to grow corn.

The Pilgrims thanked God for this wonderful helper, but they also shared with him the most valuable treasure they had brought with them from England—the gospel.  Squanto died soon after coming to the aid of the Pilgrims, but before his death he asked the Pilgrims to pray for him that he might go to be with their God in heaven.

On the first Thanksgiving Day, both the Pilgrims and the Indians were thanking God for His great goodness in providing for them all.  In fact, with the help of Squanto, the Pilgrims had established a peace agreement with the nearby Indians that remained in place for a half century. Truly, God was in control of their whole situation.

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