” Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
When I was young, my favorite book in the whole world was The Hiding Place. It is the incredible true story of a Dutch family, the ten Booms, who hid Jews during the Nazi occupation in Holland, and it has probably shaped my life and faith more than I realize.
This year I am introducing my own kids to this treasured book, and rereading it myself I find it has the same power to inspire and humble me.
One part stood out to me in particular today. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom are sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, and it is dismal and terrible beyond what I think we can imagine, even in reading Corrie’s description. But Betsie’s response was surprising and inspiring…
We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw.
..Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross-slats above. Something had pinched my leg.
“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ’Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’
“‘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 she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
“‘Corrie!’ she 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. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving [the prison at] Scheveningen.
…“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.”
In the coming months in that crowded bunk the sisters held worship services, and they were never bothered by the guards. It didn’t make sense. But later they learned that the guards wouldn’t come into their barracks because of the fleas. Because of the fleas, they had had all of the time in there unsupervised to encourage their broken bunk mates openly with God’s love.
Thank God for fleas.
Thank God for Corrie and Betsie’s faith and faithfulness in such terrible darkness. Thank God the book is still in print. If you’ve never read it, or like me, haven’t read it since you were young, get a copy and read it. I don’t think you’ll be the same. In a good way…
What do you need to give thanks for right now that seems too hard to be grateful for? Have you ever had something that looked terrible turn out to be a blessing? Share your story in the comments! And I’m happy to pray for you if something is too hard to give thanks for.
You are never alone. No matter how deep the darkness around you. He is with you. He sees you too. Call out to Him and He will shine a light into your darkness.