Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)]
Writing about pesky mosquitoes yesterday reminded me of a story told by Corrie ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place. As part of the Dutch resistance during World War II, Corrie’s family harbored Jews and others hunted by the Gestapo in their home. After being betrayed by a Dutch informant, the ten Boom family was arrested and imprisoned. Corrie and her sister Betsie ended up in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. That first night, as they shared a bed in the crowded barracks, Corrie discovered their bedding was infested with fleas. Betsie reminded her sister of the Scripture passage they’d read that morning from 1 Thessalonians: “Give thanks in all circumstances.” As they began praying, Betsie listed the things for which they could give thanks, such as their remaining together and having smuggled a Bible into the barracks. But, when she mentioned the fleas, Corrie’s response was, “There’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.” Betsie explained that the verse said all circumstances and not just the pleasant ones, so Corrie reluctantly joined her in a prayer of thanksgiving that even included the fleas.
With their hidden Bible, the ten Boom sisters offered strength, comfort, and clandestine Bible studies in their barracks. Such gatherings were strictly forbidden and the women feared their meetings and secret Bible would be discovered. For some unknown reason, however, the German guards never entered the women’s sleeping room or searched their belongings and Corrie often wondered why. She later discovered that the guards kept their distance because they were terrified of getting fleas from the prisoners’ mattresses or clothing! Upon learning this, Corrie truly was thankful for the fleas in their beds!
As difficult as it is to thank God for the nuisances of life like mosquitoes and fleas, it is even harder to be thankful in the midst of the injury, pain, discomfort, loss, and trials that comes with our fallen world. From our viewpoint, we see our challenges as afflictions that must be borne. Perhaps we should consider looking at them through God’s eyes and seeing them simply as well-disguised blessings given out of love. Unlike Corrie, while we’re on this side of the grass, we may never discover the blessing in the fleas and other afflictions but, someday, we will meet the Lord face to face and finally understand.
Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings. It’s something we make inside ourselves. [Corrie ten Boom]