There is a story in the Bible that seemed exceptionally harsh to me. It’s the story of the Israelites being punished for ingratitude by wandering in a desert for 40 years. But as a parent, I began to understand a little of how God felt. I hated it when my children complained about what they had to eat or what they weren’t allowed to wear or what they couldn’t have.
We gave penalties for complaining and had them memorize Bible verses in hopes that they would get the point, but we never were as radical in our discipline as God was with His kids. I might have banished my children to their rooms for 30 minutes for complaining, but to be banished to a desert for 40 years seemed a bit over the top!
Why did God make such a big deal about a bad attitude?
He knows better than we can possibly imagine how an ungrateful heart is really a proud heart, a heart of rebellion to the parent, or to God Himself, who is providing with love. Because children are born selfish, it is the parent’s job to train their children’s hearts to be grateful. It’s not an easy task, but it’s a worthy one, for a child with a thankful heart is a delight to parents and to others.
The following story is one of my all time favorites. I first read the book, The Hiding Place, in college. The amazing stories of faith, suffering, forgiveness and gratitude woven into the lives of Corrie ten Boom and her family marked me for life. I look forward to getting to know Corrie one day in heaven and I will tell her then how her faith inspired me to be a woman of thanksgiving.
If you missed the first three stories you can find them here. Or download and print all four and read them again in another month or two. I’m sure you and yours will need a reminder to be grateful again. It’s a never ending need of us humans!
“CAN FLEAS BE FROM GOD?” giving thanks for the uncomfortable
“In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Ravensbruck. The notorious women’s extermination camp. Deep inside Nazi Germany in 1944, Ravensbruck had become home to thousands of women prisoners, including Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom.
Corrie and Betsie and three other members of their family, including their 80 year old father, had been captured by the Germans six months earlier for the crime of hiding Jews escaping certain death by the Nazis. Now the two women were being assigned new quarters, Barracks 28. The place was filthy, the plumbing was backed up, the straw bedding (they had no sheets or soft pillows) was dirty and scratchy on the crude wooden platforms stacked three high in long rows.
After being directed to their places, Corrie and Betsie crawled over the smelly straw and onto their platform to lay down and rest. Corrie was shocked at what they discovered.
“Fleas!” Corrie cried. “Betsie, this place is swarming with them!”
Scrambling off the platform Corrie wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!”
Betsie was already praying, “Show us. Show us how, Lord.”
Suddenly Betsie exclaimed, “Corrie, He’s already given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the bible this morning, read that part again!”
Carefully Corrie drew the bible from its pouch so that no guard would see. It was in First Thessalonians. “see that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another…Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus—“
“That’s it, Corrie!” said Betsie, “ That’s the answer. Give thanks in all circumstances, for every single thing in this barracks!”
“Such as?” Corrie said.
“Such as being assigned here together, and ” “Such as what you’re holding in your hands,” said Betsie.
Corrie looked down at the Bible. “Yes, thank you, Lord”
Betsie continued, “Thank you, Lord, that we’re packed so close with so many, that many more will hear about You! And thank you for the fleas.”
This was too much. “Betsie, there is no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“It doesn’t say in pleasant circumstances, Betsie replied. Fleas are a part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But I was sure this time that Betsie was wrong.An
Weeks later, God gave Corrie the answer to her question about fleas. While standing in the food line at the end of the day, Betsie said with delight, “You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room for our bible studies,” she said. “Well I’ve found out.” “This afternoon some women asked for a supervisor to come settle a dispute and she refused to come as did all the guards. You know why? Because of the fleas! They said, “that place is crawling with fleas!”
God allowed a difficult circumstance for Corrie and Betsie so that His Word could be read to any woman who wanted to listen. In any other barracks it would have been very difficult to read the forbidden bible without being discovered by the guards. God provided protection with fleas.
Are we grateful for the daily comforts they did not have? Do we give thanks for even nuisances that God allows in our lives when it seems most difficult to accept?
We may never know why as Betsie and Corrie did, but we can know as they did that He is always caring for us no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.
What are those unpleasant or uncomfortable things in each of our lives that we can give thanks for like Corrie and Betsie did? And be bold and ask Him if He would perhaps show you why He has allowed these present difficulties in your life. He may not show you right away or ever, but He is a Father who loves His children and wants us to ask.