It’s simple to thank God when He does miracles and answers prayers just the way we want them answered. It’s easy to thank Him when we look around and see many blessings in our lives. When our situation seems awful, or we’re struggling through tragedy or hard times, it can seem unbelievable that God is working for our good.
In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom tells of a time she discovered that God was working even in the most horrific circumstances. Corrie and her sister Betsie had been imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews behind the wall of their Holland home, and Nazi prison conditions pretty well unbearable.
Corrie writes: “Barracks 8 was in the quarantine compound. Next to us–perhaps as a deliberate warning to newcomers–were located the punishment barracks. From there, all day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were not the sounds of anger, or of any human emotion, but of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We would stand in our ten-deep ranks with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop.
“It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy.”
Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible “like waifs clustered around a blazing fire…The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.”
When they were moved to Barracks 28, Corrie was horrified by the fact that their reeking, straw-bed platforms swarmed with fleas. How could they live in such a place? It was Betsie who discovered God’s answer: “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…”
They thanked God for the fact they were together. They thanked God they had a Bible. They even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners, that more people would be able to hear God’s Word. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.
“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.” It turned out that Betsie was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but a blessing after all. The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and harassing them. They finally discovered that it was the fleas that kept those supervisors out.
Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment. Dozens of desperate women were free to hear the comforting, hope-giving Word of God. Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met.
We all have “fleas” in our lives. We all have those things that we can see no use for, things that are obviously horrible, unpleasant, painful things that we want gone. No life is free of “fleas.” We all have aggravations, inconveniences and pain. If God can use fleas to protect Corrie and Betsie, He is fully capable of using difficult things to bless us. God does care; God is working even when we are uncomfortable with or disappointed with life. As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, lets thank God for His constant care and provision, and for His hidden blessings that come in ways we can easily overlook.
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18