The fall weather has been a nice relief after a very warm summer and sets the tone perfectly for the upcoming Thanksgiving festivities.

Nearly four centuries ago, a bedraggled group of pilgrims were finally celebrating a bountiful harvest following 12 long months of struggle and hardship. Of the original 102 passengers, 45 died the first winter, leaving just 57 pilgrims at the very first Thanksgiving feast. Invited to the three-day celebration were 91 Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribe, who had been instrumental in the settlers’ survival during that first year.

The first and foremost reason the pilgrims left for the New World was so they could live out their lives without being under the thumb of the English and Dutch governments and practice their religious beliefs without fear of discrimination. That provided incredible motivation and made it easier for them to make the necessary sacrifices. In 1863, Thanksgiving became a nationally recognized holiday. Today, Christmas is our nation’s favorite holiday, and Thanksgiving is next in line.

The crux of the matter regarding the principle of motivation is that hardships, and not prosperity and living a life of ease, motivate us to make changes in our lives. Nearly half of the people who came over on the Mayflower didn’t survive the first winter. What a price to pay for getting their religious freedom. No doubt living conditions were far better where they came from than in this harsh, cold, and hostile land they now inhabited. Fast forward 400 years – we have an easy life compared to then.

To make the point on hardships motivating us to seek meaningful change, a little over a month ago, I had a freak accident at home in my workshop. One minute I was sitting at my workbench, and in the next millisecond I was off of my stool and laying on the concrete floor. My arm was broken in two places, and my shoulder surgery of two years ago needed to be repaired again. This resulted in some agonizing hours in the emergency room and a 3 1/2 hour surgery.

Over the past 12 years, I have had nine surgeries for various ailments and injuries. I serve a God that will protect me from these types of hardships, right? Truth be told, that is not always the case. He simply said He would be with us in the dark days of our lives, and He has been. In the past month, I have had ample time to reflect on my 66 years, and the pattern that has emerged is that growth in character and my walk with God have rarely been achieved on the mountain tops of life. Change and growth happen mostly in the dark valleys. During my time of recuperation and healing, my son Eugene gave me a book written by Craig Groeschel called Hope in the Dark. Another friend sent me a link to a song by Mercy Me called Even If. Both of these helped me to understand that growth and pain can, many times, be very closely related. When dark days and long nights are our fate for a period of time, we have a choice to make. We can become bitter and declare that life is unfair and that our loving Heavenly Father is actually an angry and ruthless God, or we can ask for direction, motivation, and healing that can make us better, not bitter. It’s our choice.

Paul Weaver
Lodestar Guidance Founder