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Thankful for Fleas

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and if your social media sites are anything like mine, they have probably exploded with posts from friends listing all of the things that they are thankful for. Many of my friends participate in a “30 days of thanks” challenge where they post something that they are thankful for each day in November.

Which is awesome …

But honestly, it can be hard to look at sometimes. The polished screen of social media often presents everyone else’s lives as picture perfect compared to the raw, muddled, messy lives we lead. All too often, when we see the smiles and the gushy posts and the blessings that seem to fall on everyone else, I think it can feed a spirit of jealousy in us.

But we are meant to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving that is not dependent on our circumstances. I can’t tell you how many times Paul wrote about giving thanks while he was in chains! And it’s easy to look at that and be like “But that was the Apostle Paul, he was crazy devoted to Christ! I can’t be like that.”

But that is exactly how we are meant to be as well.

And that is not something that I’m always the best at.

As I sat down to write this post, a story came to mind. It’s one that never fails to remind me what true thankfulness should look like, so I want to share it with you today.

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom is one of my favorite books. It tells the painful yet triumphant and true story of the ten Boom family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After being arrested for hiding Jews, Corrie and her sister Betsie wound up in a concentration camp. It was there that they saw the beauty of God’s sovereignty and love in the darkest of places.

It was clear in the way they were able to smuggle a Bible past guards through the process of changing and showering and donning thin prison garb. It was clear in the way they were able to use that Bible to reach their prison mates and share the Good News in a place where evil seemed to reign. And it was clear in the way their Bible studies were never disturbed by surprise inspections from the guards, all too common in the other barracks.

But it wasn’t so clear in the cruelty they saw and endured every day. It wasn’t so clear when Betsie—never strong at the best of times—grew sicker and weaker by the day. And it wasn’t so clear in the swarm of fleas and lice that infested the bunks in their barracks and made sleeping almost impossible.

But after reading I Thessalonians 5:16-18 in their Bible study one night, Betsie closed by thanking God for the fleas, something Corrie couldn’t comprehend. Until one day when she overheard a guard talking about why they never entered that one specific barracks …

Because the fleas were so terrible!

The fleas that Betsie had thanked God for—but Corrie had wanted to curse instead—were yet another way that God demonstrated His sovereignty and protection in the worst of circumstances. Because of the fleas, Betsie and Corrie had freedom to share the Gospel, encourage the women in their barracks, and pray for them without the guards discovering it.

To an extent, Corrie was able to see how God was working in her circumstances, but we don’t always get that moment where everything becomes clear. We may never understand the reason for the difficult or painful situations that we find ourselves in.

But that doesn’t negate the greater truth that God is working and He is working for good. (Romans 8:28) I want to leave you with a quote from Betsie ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”[1] So this Thanksgiving season, can you trust that God is working in your circumstances? Can you trust that He is sovereign and good?

Can you be thankful even for the fleas?

[1] Boom, Corrie ten. The Hiding Place. Peabody Massachusetts Hendrickson Publishers, 2009, p 240

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