True Gratitude

Jesse O’Hara  |  Article  |  Gratitude, Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

Fleas. Itchy, nasty, disgusting fleas. This might seem like a nonsensical way to begin a post about gratitude, but when I was a child, I heard a story about fleas that had a major impact on how I now view the world around me. Perhaps you’ve heard it too. In Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, she relays a tale about a time during the Nazi occupation when she and her sister, Betsie, were held captive in the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Upon discovering that their barracks were infested with fleas, Corrie’s horror was met with Betsie’s unwavering insistence that they reread the passage in First Thessalonians they had read that morning. “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” At Betsie’s prodding, Corrie reluctantly praised God for the fleas. They soon discovered that the presence of those fleas was known by the guards, which kept the guards out of the barracks, which allowed the women to hold secret Bible studies, which provided them with a living hope in the darkest of places, which changed lives for Christ. All because of fleas.

What this story captures so well is something that Bobby talks about often: we can’t allow our feelings to lead us through life. Feelings are fleeting, and often times short-sighted. If I were to boil my thoughts on this issue down to a single idea, it would be this: Gratitude is an Attitude. True Gratitude runs much deeper than the warm feeling I experience when I’m given something I desire. It’s so easy to be grateful for something I want…in fact it’s my natural reaction to receiving wonderful things. True Gratitude, however, involves something else entirely. It involves intentionality. I’ve found that when I allow intentionality to be the guiding force, my gratitude ceases to be merely a reaction to the things that happen around me, and begins to become a filter through which I view the experiences of my life, regardless of how they make me feel. What Corrie’s story taught me is that genuine Gratitude is an active choice you make when you get out of bed in the morning, not a passive feeling you experience when things go your way.

As should be obvious by the giant inflatable turkeys popping up on lawns across Lancaster, we are moving into a week when most of us will spend more time thinking about the things we are thankful for than we normally might. And yes, there will be the easy ones: family, health, a robust hairline beyond middle age (I’m told that’s a thing…). But if I may be so bold, I would also challenge you to find the fleas in your life. Search for the things that, at first glance, appear to be obvious problems to be eliminated, rather than hidden blessings to be grateful for. It certainly won’t be easy, as it’s so simple to lose sight of a blessing when we choose to focus instead on the ways that we find our blessings incomplete. But God’s Word is as true for us today around the Thanksgiving table as it was for Corrie ten Boom all those years ago in one of the least likely places in history to learn a lesson on Gratitude. It is God’s will for us that we live lives rooted in intentional Gratitude. After all, we simply never know how God might use the fleas in our lives to further His kingdom. And that is, most definitely, something to be thankful for.

Jesse O’Hara | Elder

Jesse O’Hara


Jesse grew up as a pastor's kid and has developed a passion for serving the church. He and Kara are graduates of Eastern University and serve on Frontline and as Community Group leaders. Jesse works in the greenhouse industry, as a grower and manager, and also runs his own woodworking business. Recently, Jesse kindled a love for cross-cultural missions through CFC’s work in Austria. Jesse and Kara are parents to three young children, Juliana, Trystan, and Piper.