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1608 PD: The pilgrim's gratitude

Yevet Ternney Published on 06 November 2008

I can’t help but wonder how it must have felt for the Pilgrims to have stood on Plymouth Rock and gazed out into the vast gray ocean as the windswept waves slapped the shores of a freezing, uninviting wilderness.

It must have been a moment of excruciating sorrow mingled with inexpressible joy. They had left the comfort zone of England, where at least they had a warm fire and food to eat, to come to a forsaken place where there was nothing but icy winter and a glimmer of hope.

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The following is an account from William Bradford’s journal.

“William Bradford writes of how the exploring party from the Mayflower, sailing in the shallop, survived a storm and landed on Clark’s Island. After spending the Sabbath on the island, the party finally landed for the first time in Plymouth:

From hence they departed, and coasted all along, but discerned no place likely for harbor; and therefore hasted to a place that their pilot (one Mr. Coppin who had been in the country before) did assure them was a good harbor, which he had been in, and they might fetch it before night; of which they were glad, for it began to be foul weather.

After some hours sailing, it began to snow and rain, and about the middle of the afternoon, the wind increased, and the sea became very rough, and they broke their ruder, and it was as much as 2 men could doe to steer her with a couple of oars. But their pilot bad them be of good cheer, for he saw the harbor; but the storm increasing, and night drawing on, they bore what sail they could to get in, while they could see. But herewith they broke their mast in 3 pieces, and their sail fell over board, in a very grown sea, so as they had like to have been cast away; yet by God’s mercy they recovered them selves, and having the flood with them, struck into the harbor.

But when it came too, the pilot was deceived in the place, and said, the Lord be merciful unto them, for his eyes never saw that place before; and he and the mr. mate would have rune her ashore, in a cove full of breakers, before the wind. But a lusty seaman which steered, bad those which rowed, if they were men, about with her, or ells they were all cast away; the which they did with speed. So he bid them be of good cheer and row lustily, for there was a faire sound before them, and he doubted not but they should find one place or other where they might ride in safety. And though it was very dark, and rained sore, yet in the end they got under the lee of a small island, and remained there all that night in safety. But they knew not this to be an island till morning, but were divided in their minds; some would keep the boat for fear they might be amongst the Indians; others were so weak and cold, they could not endure, but got a shore, and with much adieu got fire, (all things being so wet,) and the rest were glad to come to them; for after midnight the wind shifted to the north-west, and it froze hard.

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But though this had been a day and night of much trouble and danger unto them, yet God gave them a morning of comfort and refreshing (as usually he does to his children), for the next day was a faire sunshiny day, and they found themselves to be on an island secure from the Indians, where they might dry their stuff, fixe their pieces, and rest themselves, and gave God thanks for his mercies, in their manifold deliverances. And this being the last day of the week, they prepared there to keep the Sabbath.

On Monday they sounded the harbor, and found it fit for shipping; and marched into the land [Plymouth], and found diverse cornfields, and little running brooks, a place (as they supposed) fit for situation; at least it was the best they could find, and the season, and their present necessity, made them glad to accept of it. So they returned to their ship again with this news to the rest of their people, which did much comfort their harts.” (Editor’s note: To improve readability, modern, common spelling has been used. http://www.pilgrimhall.org/bradfordjournalclarks.htm)

I can’t help but marvel at the Pilgrim’s gratitude in such adverse conditions. They had nothing but hope to sustain them in the bitter cold. They were grateful for the icy brooks and the meager cornfields. They were filled with gratitude for the sunshine.

Many in America have suffered great loss from the hurricanes, from the stock market and from skyrocketing prices. It is easy to see how sorrow could overtake them in their destitute circumstances, but those who have made friends with God and trust him, have fallen to their knees to thank Him for His tender mercies. They say, “At least we have each other.” “At least we were not swept away in the hurricane.” They ask themselves, “What is God trying to teach me?” They know instinctively that God is in charge and He will bring them out of the adversity with greater appreciation and knowledge. He will match their struggle with His matchless love.

My heart goes out to those who don’t know God. As they stand in the shambles of their hopes and dreams, they have no hope. They have nowhere to turn for relief and comfort. They too may say, “At least we have each other,” but the darkness of sorrow and bitterness must be unbearable. I weep for them, for I know the inexpressible joy that comes from knowing God is there and will help me through the trial.

All people, no matter who they are, will eventually pass through Job-like trials. Job of the Old Testament, though extremely prosperous, lost everything he owned in one day. Upon hearing the news, “. . . Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”(Job 1:20-22)

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Did Job continue to suffer? Yes. Job was stricken with terrible disease and boils. His trials were unbearable without the help of God, but he came through it knowing that God loved him. “... the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning...”(Job 42:10,12)

My husband, Reg, passed through a Job experience when he lost his first wife to cancer. Everything was going well in their lives, business was good, his children were growing up with Christian values and they were happy. She found out that she was pregnant with her sixth child. What a joy! Six months into the pregnancy she was diagnosed with lung cancer. What? She had never smoked. What a slap in the face!

What was God thinking! Though they prayed, events went from bad to worse. The business went under, and come to find out the man who was supposed to be paying the insurance had not done his job. Here Reg was with five children, a pregnant wife with cancer and no insurance! They still prayed. God’s answers cannot always be yes. The doctors took the baby cesarean, and eventually Reg’s lovely wife, Mary, passed away leaving him with six children, massive doctor bills and no business.

The Lord’s tender mercies were over that family. The community of Wickenburg, where they lived, had fundraisers. Ladies took turns caring for the baby and the children. Reg found a job and began to work for wages. The hospital bills flooded in, but miracles began to happen.

Today Reg has twelve children instead of six. He has another wife, and has a beautiful house and he is prospering beyond measure. The Lord prospered him. The hospital wrote off much of his debt, and a Catholic charity wrote off the rest. Do you think the Lord had a hand in Reg’s Job-experience? Yes! Modern day Jobs do exist and if they are faithful and trust in the Lord, he will give all that was taken away and more.

The Lord was merciful to the Pilgrims in their time of adversity. It was not fun, nor was it an experience they wanted to repeat, but none of us could say the Pilgrim experience was not worth it. Look at the glories of the America they started on that lonely windswept coastline. PD

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