Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

Landing of the Pilgrims by Cornè, Michele Feli...

Landing of the Pilgrims by Cornè, Michele Felice circa 1805. Displayed in the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the early 17th century the Church of England, led by King James I, persecuted anyone who did not recognize the churches absolute civil and religious authority. Those who disagreed with the church were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs.

A group of Separatists, those who believed that the Church of England was beyond repair, fled to Holland and lived for 11 years until they decided to flee to the New World. It was no doubt a difficult decision to make, but they were absolute in their pursuit of freedom to worship God in a manner they believed he approved. These future colonists decided their religious freedom and identity were worth the treacherous journey across the ocean and a difficult life in a new frontier.

On August 6, 1620, after many delays the Mayflower set sail with 102 passengers including 40 of the Separatists who we know as the Pilgrims. The voyage took seven weeks. On the day the lookout spotted land, the passengers rushed to the deck. The sight of land was overwhelming for those who had spent so long at sea and they burst forth with praise and gratitude to their God. Their moment of celebration lasted so long that the Captain was forced to order them below the deck.

The travelers were weary from their journey, but what lied ahead for them was two of the most difficult years of their lives. The land they celebrated seeing for the first time was already in the early stages of winter. The delays they experienced in England had cost them two months of mild, autumn weather. They were surprised to find their journey had only led them a few hundred miles north of their destination of the Virginia colony. They were less than a week’s journey from landfall! The Virginia colony offered a fresh start for the Pilgrims. They started south, but their progress was slowed by the dangerous weather and low tides. The coast line was a treacherous passage. The trip became frighteningly perilous, and the Pilgrims began praying feverishly for the safety of the ship.

Elder William Brewster called a meeting with John Carver, William Bradford, and Edward Winslow. Brewster felt that God was intervening in their passage to the Virginia Colony. The men discussed their own feelings about the situation and decided that it must be God’s providence that was discouraging their progress southward. They referred to the account of God’s intervention of Paul and Silas’ journey into Asia recorded in Acts 16:6-10. The Holy Spirit instead directed Paul and Silas to Macedonia, which led to the creation of the Philippians Church. During their meeting, Captain Jones interrupted their assembly with his latest assessment. The journey south would have to be halted. They would return to sea and wait for the weather to improve.

The four asked that he wait until they first spoke with the others. After much discussion and prayer, the Pilgrims unanimously agreed to the change of course. They then sent word to Captain Jones, and he redirected the course back north to Cape Cod. On November 11th, 1620 they dropped anchor in a natural harbor inside of the cape.

Isn’t it funny how we often feel so comfortable when our lives are planned out? We like when our lives seem to be in order, and according to plan. But I have found that God often changes the course of our lives drastically. The Pilgrims thought they were settling in the already established (although struggling) Virginia Colony, but God had other plans for them. Our lives are often like that. Sometimes God closes doors in our lives. We may believe that we have missed out, but God knows what he is doing. This Thanksgiving lets celebrate the doors that God closed and the new doors that he opens because we chose to follow his course.

Thanksgiving Posts

Thanksgiving: New Beginnings

Thanksgiving: Promised Hope

Thanksgiving: When LIfe’s Difficult

Thanksgiving: Prosperity


About Mitchell Norton
My life was changed when God saw fit to forgive me of my rebellion against him. I am not worthy of a righteous God, and I am thankful that he reached out to me. My walk with the Lord has lead me to understand that loving others is just as important as loving God. I am a husband to a beautiful wife, father to an adorable daughter (and one on the way!), and servent of the Gospel. I am not perfect, but one day I will be. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence." - Jeremiah 17:7

4 Responses to Thanksgiving: A Change of Direction

  1. Pingback: Thanksgiving: New Beginnings and Allowing God to Lead « Studying the Way

  2. Pingback: Thanksgiving: When Life’s Difficult « Studying the Way

  3. Pingback: Thanksgiving: Promised Hope « Studying the Way

  4. Pingback: Thanksgiving: Prosperity « Studying the Way

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