In less than two weeks, most of us will be sitting around a table full of food, surrounded by those we love, counting all the reasons we are thankful.
But maybe some of you are in a hard place this season. Maybe you’re finding it difficult to give thanks in the midst of a marriage that’s falling apart or a child that won’t stop breaking your heart. Maybe as you face overwhelming circumstances, you can’t find that place of gratitude. Take heart in the fact that this too is a season.
Today my mind goes back to a book I read years ago, and a story that changed my perspective (and my life) forever. In The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, Corrie’s life teaches that nothing is in vain, and because God has a purpose and a plan for my life, I can trust Him to use even the worst of times, for my good.
I’m sharing an excerpt with you today hoping that no matter what hard place you might find yourself in, and what “fleas” you are dealing with, you are also able to find joy in the midst of it. It is possible, and it is so worth it.
[Corrie and her sister Betsie have just moved into permanent quarters in Ravensbruck concentration camp.]
“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.
[Some time later, Corrie discovered Betsie was indeed right.]
“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.
“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’
“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.
“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”
“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “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.
I don’t know what “fleas” you are facing as you head into this season of thanks, but I do hope you know that your situation, however impossible it may seem, is not hopeless.
I want to challenge you today to believe that you will not only get through it, but you can even learn to be grateful for it as you ask God to work in it. Thanksgiving is a powerful force, and it has a way of working miracles, especially in our own hearts.
Do you believe it?