“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
–King David (1 Chronicles 16)
On October 3, 1863, Abraham Lincoln did something radical that no American President would dare to do today…he declared a national holiday to thank God for His love and blessings on America, despite a raging Civil War with thousands of dead Americans.
Lincoln knew that we were forgetful and focus on the bad things in our lives. He wanted us to remember God’s true character that He is good, loving, and sovereign. Lincoln knew we needed that reminder in a world broken by sin where people have the free will to choose to do horrible things (two months earlier, Gettysburg had over 50,000 casualties).
Despite our wickedness, God remains good and loving toward us. He proved that by sacrificing Jesus to save us (Romans 5:8). When we thank God for His many blessings, it changes our mindset to be positive despite our woes (Philippians 4:8). We are quick to forget that He is in charge and He will ultimately triumph over every wrong.
After mentioning all the good things Americans could be thankful for as a nation, Lincoln went on to say this:
“The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
“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.
“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”