If your house was infested with fleas and you had to live with that every day and there was nothing you could do about it, how would you react?
I read a story a while back that changed my entire outlook on life. It’s from the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners of the Nazis during WWII. In the book, Corrie tells about the experience when she and Betsy were moved to Ravensbrück, a particularly terrible concentration camp where medical experiments were conducted on prisoners by the Nazis.
She and Betsy were able to smuggle a Bible in with them. Corrie tells the following story about their first night at Ravensbrück:
“The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. 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!’
“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.”
I don’t know about you but I think I would have been with Corrie on that one. She wasn’t sold on the idea of thanking God for the fleas and I don’t know that I would have been either. But they decided to be thankful anyway, and over their time at Ravensbrück, they were amazed at how easy they found that it was for them to have Bible studies in their living quarters without any interference from the guards. It wasn’t until years later that Corrie discovered that the guards refused to go into their living quarters because of the fleas.
What do the fleas look like in your life? What is there that you are convinced is a bad thing that God might be using for good? Sometimes it will take years for you to figure it out. You might never know. But we should be thankful, even for the things we don’t understand, because we never know what God is using for good. Even in our pain, our agony, our misunderstanding, and our hurt, God is at work. He can even use fleas.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says,
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Doesn’t sound like much of a party to me. We don’t like to like the bad stuff in life, but it’s often in the bad stuff that God can do the most good. It’s in the things that humble us that God is glorified.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18. Take time today to thank God for something in your life that you don’t like. Ask God to show you how it can be used for good. Ask Him to use you to get glory, to draw others to Him. What are the fleas in your life?