Sometimes it’s easy to say a general, “Thank you for this food,” to God around the dinner table. While that is a valid declaration of gratitude, training our hearts to specifically name details of our lives—even hard and challenging parts—grows gratitude.
Last week I wrote about giving thanks in all things, which God our Father tells us to do…by faith, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). I’m called to follow Him and to obey Him and that includes thanking Him even when I am not happy with my circumstances. God has reminded me often to thank Him for difficult people and situations in my life because when I do I’m remembering He already knows. I’m acknowledging He isn’t surprised. I’m thanking Him that He has a plan I can’t see clearly just yet.
Read this story of a faith hero who chose to do just that. At the end of the story, follow the prompts to put giving thanks specifically into practice with your family.
Giving Thanks for Fleas
Ravensbruck wasn’t a place anyone wanted to be. Each day it was the scene of cruel suffering, sickness, and death. Located fifty miles north of Berlin, Germany, it had been established as a prison camp for women in 1938 by members of Adolf Hitler’s army.
Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, along with their eighty-year-old father, had been arrested for the crime of hiding Jews from the Nazi soldiers. In 1944, Corrie and Betsie were unloaded at Ravensbruck with thousands of other women. Yet not even the horrific conditions of the camp or the threats of punishment could stop these two godly women from loving the persecuted Jewish people.
At the risk of death, they tended the sick and injured, careful to avoid being seen by the prison guards, and secretly led times of Scripture reading and prayer.
Then the two sisters were moved to Barracks 28, where the living conditions were as bad as any in the camp. The backed-up plumbing filled the air with a sickening stench. The beds were actually long rows of crude wooden platforms stacked three high. What little straw covered the beds was dirty and scratchy, and of course, there were no sheet, blankets, or pillows.
After being directed to their beds, Corrie and Betsie crawled over the smelly straw to lay down to rest. Then…
“Fleas!” Corrie cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them! How can we live in such a place!”
“Show us how, Lord,“ Betsie prayed.
Suddenly she exclaimed, “Corrie, He’s given us the answer! In the Bible this morning…read that part again!”
Corrie made sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. “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 His answer,” blurted Betsie. “’Give thanks in all circumstances!’ We can thank God for every single thing about this barracks!”
“Such as?” Corrie said.
“Such as being assigned here together…and for what you’re holding in your hands.”
Corrie looked down at the Bile. “Yes! Thank You, Lord.”
“Yes,” said Betsie. “Thank You that we’re packed so close, that many more will hear about You!…And thank You for the fleas.”
This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“’Give thanks in all circumstances.’” Betsie quoted. “It doesn’t say in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
“So we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But I was sure Betsie was wrong,” Corrie recorded in her book The Hiding Place.
Weeks later, however, God gave Corrie the answer to her question about fleas when Betsie told her:
We’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room. Well—I’ve found out. This afternoon some women asked for a supervisor to come settle a dispute, but she refused. Even the guards wouldn’t come. And you know why? Because of the fleas! The supervisor said, “That place is crawling with fleas!”
In any other barracks, it would have been very difficult to read the forbidden Bible without being discovered by the guards. But God provided protection by way of fleas.
Put it into Practice
Today, are we grateful for the multitude of daily comforts we enjoy that these women prisoners didn’t have? Do we give thanks even for the nuisances God allows in our lives? We may never learn the reason for our suffering, as Betsie and Corrie did, but we can know that God is always caring for us no matter how difficult our circumstances may be.
What unpleasant or uncomfortable circumstances in your life can you give thanks for, even though, like Corrie and Betsie, you can’t see the good right now?
Will you be bold enough to ask God to show you why He has allowed these difficulties?
Pray this prayer to focus your heart on gratitude:
Heavenly Father, You see where we live, and You understand the hardships that sometimes come into our lives. Even though trials are difficult, we know that you plan to use them to bring about good, even if we never know hwy. Help us honor You by believing and giving thanks in every circumstance.
Meditate on the verses below, one each day, to set your mind toward intentional, specific gratitude this week.
As a reminder to you and your family to practice giving thanks, download this FREE thankful card.
We love the idea of using this card as part of your Thanksgiving dinner decor and to help facilitate gratitude in your family around the table. You don’t have to wait though! Start using it today to cultivate gratitude that grows all month long. Download the printable here.
*This story is taken from Growing Together in Gratitude, by Barbara Rainey, a read-aloud book for families. It is currently out of print but hopefully will available again in a year. Stay tuned!