One Thing We're Rarely Grateful For, But Always Should Be
When I begin to list things that I’m grateful for, there is something that’s rarely on my list that should be.
I guess I should start out by saying that in reality, there are probably thousands of things that I should be grateful for that I simply take for granted. Like clean water. Or plenty of food. How about heat? And what about my 5 senses (I mean really, how awesome is sight, and smell, hearing, taste, and touch?). My health (last week taught me so much about that). A few extra pounds in case I ever get stranded somewhere without food. Or how about the fact that I can breathe and think. For beautiful nature. That I can read! For my comfortable bed. For extra clothes (not just so I can keep warm, but all those clothes I have just for fashion’s sake. Totally not necessary). The list could go on and on.
But the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about something else that I should be grateful for. My trials.
Hasn’t God commanded us to be grateful in everything? I believe this includes trials, and the tough situations we may find ourselves in even now. This is rarely on my gratitude list. But it is the very thing that helps me grow, and without which I wouldn’t progress.
To illustrate I want to share a story from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. The book is so inspiring, and I hope that someday I can meet Corrie who is one of my biggest heroes.
To give a little history, Corrie and her sister Betsie were in the concentration camp together. While their conditions were appalling, they were able to smuggle in a bible which they studied together and brought them comfort. Where the story picks up they had just been moved to permanent quarters (which they had hoped would mean better conditions than what they had been in). However when they got to Barracks 28 it was horrific. The plumbing was backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid, and the beds stacked so close together that Corrie had to fight back claustrophobia. As Corrie made her way over the platformed beds, she felt something pinch her. I’ll continue in Corrie’s words:
"'Fleas!' I cried. 'Betsie, the place is swarming with them!'
"We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.
"'Here! And here another one!' I wailed. 'Betsie, how can we live in such a place!'
"'Show us. Show us how.' It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize Betsie was praying.
"'Corrie!' she then said excitedly. 'He's given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!'
"I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,' I said. "In the feeble light I turned the pages. " 'Oh yes,’ I said,..."Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'"
"'That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. "Give thanks in all circumstances!" That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!' I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
"'Such as?' I said.
"'Such as being assigned here together.'
"I bit my lip. 'Oh yes, Lord Jesus!'
"'Such as what you're holding in your hands.' I looked down at the Bible.
"'Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.'
"'Yes,' said Betsie, 'Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!' She looked at me expectantly. 'Corrie!' she prodded.
"'Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.'
"'Thank You,' Betsie went on serenely, 'for the fleas and for--'
"The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'
"'Give thanks in all circumstances,' she quoted. It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.
"And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."
Corrie goes on to tell how she and Betsie would hold bible services in Barracks 28 with the many women who were crammed in there.This was very risky for them as they could have been severely punished. I turn back to Corrie’s words.
"They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.
"At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. We were under rigid surveillance [outside of Barracks 28], guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
"One evening I got back to the barracks late, and Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.
"'You're looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,' I told her.
"'You know, we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,' she said. 'Well--I've found out.'
"That afternoon, Betsie said, there'd been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they'd asked the supervisor to come and settle it, while they were in the large room in Barracks 28.
"But the supervisor wouldn't. She wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?"
"Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: 'Because of the fleas! That's what she said, "That place is crawling with fleas!'"
"My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."
Now I have to admit, I would have reacted the same way as Corrie, and don’t think I could have audibly been grateful for fleas. But even in that trial God had a purpose.
I need to take more time to thank Heavenly Father for my trials. Particularly when I attempt to pray away a challenge and the relief doesn't come, then I need to thank Heavenly Father for having a higher purpose, and pray to be humble enough to see it.
So this week as you are giving thanks and counting your blessing, I want to challenge you to see your trials and struggles in a new light. Does Heavenly Father have a purpose for them? Is there something you can learn from them, and are they making you stronger? If so, then just maybe you should be grateful for them too.
Hope you have the happiest of Thanksgiving my friends.