Few things have touched me as deeply as the book, The Hiding Place, which I read at the age of 15 as a part of my homeschool curriculum. It is the story of Corrie Ten Boom’s life during World War II, following her from the years that her family spent hiding Jews in their home through her time in a Dutch prison, a Dutch concentration camp and finally the German concentration camp where her sister, Betsie, died. Throughout their trials, Betsie’s faith was a constant inspiration to Corrie, who understandably struggled with feelings of hatred and anger toward the Nazis.
The part of the story that has always stayed with me was when Corrie and Betsie were moved to a barracks that was plagued by swarms of fleas. Betsie had a Bible that, because of God’s grace, she was able to keep hidden from the guards. The women in their barracks regularly gathered around Betsie for Bible studies in the midst of that terrible place. One day, Betsie read out of 1 Thessalonians 5: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” Joyfully, she told Corrie and the others that they were to give thanks for everything and even in the most dire of circumstances. The women began to pray together, thanking God for literally every single thing about their situation, concluding with Betsie thanking God for the fleas. While this prayer was inconceivable to Corrie, who didn’t believe that she would ever be able to be thankful for fleas, they later found out that it was this very annoyance that kept the guards out of their barracks, granting them freedom from the constant abuse that faced other prisoners as well as allowing them to continue with their Bible Studies.
Several thousand years ago, another group of people were faced with the choice to grumble or be grateful. They chose the former. As the Israelites made their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, they saw countless miracles, yet every time God tested them, they failed. They failed to remember how God brought them out of Egypt, with an abundance of wealth, given willingly to them by the Egyptians as they prepared to leave. They failed to remember the Red Sea Crossing and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army as they came out safely on the other side. They failed to remember how God had never failed to provide for them, from manna to quail to water, first by miraculously making bitter water sweet and then by twice providing water from a rock. They failed to notice how their clothes and shoes were not wearing out. In short, they failed to recognize the power of Almighty God and made every problem bigger than the One who created them. Moses wrote this about their trials:
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.”
Just like King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32), the trials that the Israelites went through in the wilderness were not unforeseen by God, but tests intentionally given to them by Him to know what was in their hearts and whether they would obey Him, honor Him and praise Him no matter what. Both the sin of Hezekiah as well as that of the Israelites lied in not being thankful – Hezekiah in his prosperity and the Israelites in their trials.
During this Thanksgiving season, we would do well to learn from the stories of Corrie Ten Boom, King Hezekiah and the Israelites. Be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes this means to be thankful, as Betsie instructed Corrie, for every circumstance and other times it means to be thankful in our circumstances, no matter how bleak, remembering the miracles in our lives, how God has cared for us in times past or how He has used difficult times for good. And sometimes, it means honoring God with our success and guarding against a prideful heart that robs God of the glory due only to Him. Whether you are currently experiencing good times or bad, take time throughout your day, every day, to honor the King of the universe with your unwavering gratitude. He is the only One deserving and He will always remain faithful even when we are not.