“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’
“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.
“‘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 Scheveningen.
“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.
“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’
“‘Oh yes:’… ‘”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.”
–The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch woman from Holland who suffered and survived the atrocities of a Nazi concentration camp. Her story is one of amazing faith, and if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, I strongly recommend it.
From this excerpt, Corrie tells of the wretched living conditions of the barracks, and her sister’s insistence that they give thanks in all circumstances. When I read this, I immediately thought of our November Joy series and our most recent challenge: When Life is Unfair – GIVE THANKS. I can’t imagine a more unfair, more horrific situation than what the Ten Boom sisters endured.
Yet she gave thanks for the fleas.
Who does that??
I mean, seriously, who does that?
Ravensbruck was a Nazi concentration camp for women, a place where the inmates suffered greatly, many were gassed, shot or worked to death. Here, Corrie and Betsie lived their lives, spending their nights in cram-packed barrack and their days working painfully miserable tasks at a nearby factory.
Despite their desperate circumstances, they secretly and timidly began to hold evening meetings where they would read from their smuggled Bible. Night after night they would meet, and women would press in to be there. So many would come that they had to have a second meeting.
Corrie and Betsie continued these meetings because for some reason, they had little to no supervision in their area of the barracks, known as the dormitory. Guards and police were everywhere but they rarely, if ever, came back to the dormitory. They could not understand why.
Until one afternoon. There was a request for a guard to come back to the dormitory to settle some confusion. The guard refused. He said he wouldn’t go back there because “that place is crawling with fleas!”
“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”
Such faith, such humility, such a trust in God through all circumstances.
What does a story like this do for you? How does it shift your focus? Your perspective?
Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom were women who loved their God, and lived their lives as if they believed Him with every fiber of their being.
I want to live like that.
I read stories of women like Corrie and Betsie, read of their incredible faith and love for the Lord, and everything inside of me comes alive. Girlfriends, to the depths of our soul, let’s give Him thanks today.
Give Him thanks for…
- Each appointment on your schedule, and the opportunities at each one
- The mound of laundry by your washer, the clothes you have to wear, and the water available for use
- The toys scattered about your home, and the children that play with them
- The smudges on the windows and the people whose hands put them there
- The dishes to be put away, and the food that made them dirty
- The “fleas” of your life, those circumstances, places or people that seem to have no use to you, realizing that you have no idea how God will use those “fleas” for His good and His glory.
I want to be a woman filled with thanksgiving and joy. You must as well. This God-given desire can be an absolute reality in our everydays.
Jesus longs for us to have His joy.
“I have told you this so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:11 NLT
Our THANKSGIVING ushers in His JOY.
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…the Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song…O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.” Ephesians 5:20, Psalm 28:7, Psalm 30:12
Thank Him. For everything. And watch how His JOY will fill you to overflow…
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18