Corrie Ten Boom once related this story of thankfulness that happened – of all places – when she was a prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War II. The barracks where they were locked up by the Germans were horribly infested by fleas. They were praying when she heard her sister Betsy say…
“Father, we want to thank you for these fleas.”
Corrie said, “No, no, no! I don’t think God wants us to be thankful for these fleas!”
Betsy said, “The Bible says, ‘in all circumstances give thanks.’” Well, for months their Bible studies had been interrupted and disrupted by their captors, but all of a sudden the German soldiers quit interrupting the Bible study. Subsequently, as a result of the Bible studies, everybody in their barracks was converted to Christ. Eventually, the Germans came and got rid of the fleas.
One day, one of the soldiers they had won to Christ was talking to Corrie, and she asked him, “Why didn’t you interrupt the Bible study?” His response was, “Because we didn’t want to come in where those fleas were.”
The great poet Maya Angelou actually started out as a voice major in college. She went through a lot of stuff. Coming to the United States from England, she had to leave her child for a season, nearly driving her crazy. She was worried nearly to death about everything going on in her life. She went to a friend who was a counselor (and also a pastor), and said, “I think I’m going to die.” He looked at her and said…
“What you need to be is thankful.”
She said, “You’ve got to be kidding. I’m broke. My voice lessons aren’t going well. My child is overseas. What do I have to be thankful for?” He said, “Get a yellow pad and begin to write down what you’re thankful for.” She said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said, “Why don’t you put down first that you’re able to hear what I’m saying to you when thousands can’t hear. Write it down. Write down that you can see, because there are thousands that can’t see. Write down that you can think clearly, because there are thousands who are struggling with mental illness. Write down that you can use your hand and write it down, because there are thousands who cannot use their hand today. Write down that you can walk in this room, that your feet are working. Then begin to look around and see that you are able to breathe, that you are alive, that you have another day to live, that there are some things that you have to hope for, that there are people who love you. Though your daughter is separated from you, you will see her again, and many have lost their loved ones. Write it down.” Maya Angelou said when that happened, her life was absolutely transformed. When she finished the page, she said laughter, joy and tears were hitting the paper of that yellow pad. If you have ever seen her, you can’t get a frown on her face. There is an attitude of gratitude in her for everything.
The Christophers are the evangelistic arm of the Catholic Church. The priest that founded this group tells the story of performing a funeral for an American G.I. at the end of World War II. During the funeral, he noticed another G.I. standing across the room. He found out that that G.I. had survived because of the death of the one being buried. The man looked rough, shy, and stood off by himself. The priest watched him and finally walked away. When he walked away, he looked from a distance, and the man walked over to the cross, took out a piece of paper, and wrote a note. He folded the note up, stuck it to the cross, and walked away. Later, the curious priest went back to see the note. Here’s what the note said…
“Dear Joe, Thank you for dying for me. I’m alive because of you.”
What are you thankful for today?
Is it the family and friends you are sharing your meal and life with? Is it your home? Your job? Is it the life you live in a free nation? Is it the church in which you worship?
Hopefully, it is all of the above. It is for me.
But it should also be the unpleasant things of life: Those annoying things we don’t understand that God uses to work His supernatural purposes in our lives, and the lives of those around us.
It should be the circumstances in life that test us, refine us, and mold us – not into the person we wish we were – but into the person that God intended us to be.
But most of all, it should be for a Savior who gave His all so that we could live, and upon whose cross we can post our own declaration…
“Dear Jesus. Thank you for dying for me. I’m alive because of you.”