By Hal Lindsey
In the classic 1954 holiday film, “White Christmas,” the character played by Bing Crosby sings to and with Rosemary Clooney’s character a song called “Count Your Blessings.”
“When I'm worried and I can't sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep…
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.”
The Irving Berlin song was nominated for an Academy Award, eventually losing to “Three Coins in the Fountain.” For Berlin, it was a personal song recounting advice his doctor gave him when he was going through a period of insomnia due to stress.
The message is rich and timeless.
“When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all.
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.”
If you’re alive, you have something to be thankful for. You were made in the image of Almighty God. And because of the redemption Jesus bought for you on the cross, you can know Him personally, and enjoy Him forever. If you have already received His gift of salvation, then you have an infinity of God’s goodness for which to give thanks.
But it’s not always a mistake to focus on the things that are wrong. It’s natural. Right after hitting your thumb with a hammer, you usually don’t stop and think about how good your other thumb feels. Pain has a way of crying out for attention.
In all areas of our lives, we tend to focus on problems that need to be solved. Things that are going well usually don’t demand immediate and urgent attention. We have been hardwired to focus on things that are wrong, so that we can fix them.
But in our complex, topsy-turvy world, urgent concerns cry out for our attention and focus. Problems never cease. They will overwhelm us if we let them. And that, friends, is not God’s plan for any of us.
All of which brings us to Thanksgiving — a day to stop the worries, and re-focus on the blessings. Our nation’s forerunners and founders understood this.
The first Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued in 1676 by the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts. They wrote, “In the midst of His judgements He hath remembered mercy, having remembered His Footstool in the day of His sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of His Fatherly Compassion.”
In 1782, the nascent U.S. Congress issued a call for Thanksgiving across the land. It said that it is “the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His providence in their behalf.”
In 1789, Congress called for a day of Thanksgiving, and President George Washington complied. He said, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
He added, “That we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed.”
In 1863, the United States was in perhaps her darkest hour. Thousands of Americans died on the battlefield… at the hands of other Americans. But in that day of pain and fear, Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to see that we must praise God in all times — comfortable or uncomfortable, hard or easy, at peace or at war.
Lincoln was convinced that the Civil War was God’s judgment against America for the national sin of slavery. But amid that judgment, he saw grace. He wrote at length about God’s extraordinary blessings at that time. Then he said, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.…
“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” — Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.
From that time forward, the United States has always set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a national day for giving thanks to God. In recent years, people have come up with some creative ways to leave God out of Thanksgiving, but if you look at its origin, there is no doubt that it is not about thanking your family or friends — important as those things are — but thanking Almighty God, “our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
May your Thanksgiving and holiday season be filled with joy, hope, and love — this year and forever.