The Pilgrims’ Gratitude

A Thanksgiving Choice

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

When William Bradford wrote about the Pilgrims’ 1620 arrival in the New World, he said, “Having found a good haven and being brought safely in sight of land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries of it.”[1]

But as thankful as they were to stand on dry land, he said, “What could they see but a desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts? … What could now sustain them but the spirit of God, and His grace?”

Bradford then refers to Psalm 107, which exalts God’s goodness to the Israelites despite their erratic loyalty to him. Bradford paraphrased the refrain the psalmist repeats four times: “they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity. … Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men!”

The psalmist mentions many perils—oppression, homelessness, hunger, imprisonment, and stormy seas. In hardship, the Israelites turned to God for help, yet they soon returned to their sinful practices (see Psalm 106:43).

According to Bradford, the pilgrims faced similar trials, yet they remained faithful to God. They were confident He’d guide them to “a city where they could settle,” and in “their desired haven,” they could worship Him freely (Psalm 107: 7, 30).

Psalm 107 ends with this admonition: “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord” (v. 43). Bradford and the Pilgrims followed that counsel. They thanked God even though they didn’t know how they’d survive that first winter in the New World. And many of them died over the next four months. But in April 1621, two native Americans–Samoset and Squanto–befriended the newcomers and taught them how to raise crops, which led to the first Thanksgiving feast in the autumn of 1621.

We have the same choices the Pilgrims and the Israelites had. In hardship, we can turn to God or run from him. We can allow difficulty to strengthen our faith or strangle it. We can remain confident in God’s goodness and plan, or we can doubt His character and purposes.

Whose example will you follow this Thanksgiving?


Read Psalm 107. Which of the hardships described do you most relate to during this season of life? Are you able to give thanks to God anyway? Why or why not?

Read 2 Corinthians 4:8–18. What enabled Paul to give thanks during the trials he faced? What do you think he means by “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”?

Read Psalm 146. What reasons for praising God does the psalmist give? What would you add to his list?

Denise K. Loock

[1] William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Illustrated. (Amazon Digital Services, September 2014). Kindle version, “Section IX. The Mayflower sails from Plymouth—Voyage—Arrival at Cape Cod: September–November 1620.”


  1. Really interesting connections, Denise…also interesting that even as we need to give thanks during trials, we also need to praise Him steadily through the good times, as often Satan lulls us away when all is rosy…

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