In our first post on battling ingratitude, we saw the danger of ingratitude and the importance of being grateful. Then in the second post, we saw how from Psalm 103 gratitude is built on humility and flows from experiencing God’s compassion. In this final post, I want to share a story about the power of gratitude in the most unlikely of places.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Holocaust survivor who chose gratitude over despair. In her book, The Hiding Place, she talks about how she and her sister chose gratitude. Corrie and her sister Betsie were transferred to Ravensbruck which was a particularly notorious women’s extermination camp. Their barracks were horrendous and foul. The Nazis crammed 1,400 women in a barrack meant for 400. Their “beds” were straw-covered platforms stacked only a few feet above each other and were ridden with ridden with fleas. The entire place stank of sewage. The prisoners would constantly constantly fight and curse each other. If you treat people like animals long enough, they start to act like.
Upon arriving Corrie asked “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?” At that moment Corrie’s sister, Betsie, remembered a verse they read from a Bible they smuggled into the camp and answered her sister’s question: “Corrie! He’s given us the answer!” She then quoted the verse they read that morning that said “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…” Betsie continued by saying “We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barrack.”
Corrie wondered, how could she possibly give thanks. She was skeptical as she stared around her at the foul-smelling barracks. But Bestie led her to begin listing things they could be grateful for. She thanked God they had been assigned to a barracks together, but Corrie was aghast when her sister began thanking God for the fleas.
Who in their right mind thanked God for fleas? Corrie was soon to find out. Because the fleas were so bad, no guards would go into the barracks to supervise or interrupt their activities. None of the guards wanted to come near such a flea-infested area. As a result, Corrie and Betsie were able to hold prayer meetings and read the Bible to the other prisoners.
Beneath the pale, yellow light cast by a small light bulb, she read the Bible to an ever-growing group of women hungry for a ray of hope. Catholics would recite Luke 1 in Latin. Lutherans would quietly sing a hymn. Eastern Orthodox women would do their chant. Corrie or Betsie would take turns reading a portion of the Bible. The Scripture was then translated up and down the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and Dutch. The overall attitude of the barrack began to change. Where there was once anger and fighting, now there was kindness and support. In a real sense, they experienced a revival.
Made possible by a stubborn determination to be grateful in some of the most inhumane circumstances in history. Gratitude is the key that unlocks the joy of the Lord. And as we have seen, we have much to fight off ingratitude with.