I’m about to give a spoiler to the incredible book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. Many of you read this in school. It’s the story of a Dutch Christian woman who was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in a work camp for hiding Jews in her house. I don’t know how I’ve lived this long without reading it.
The book offers so many lessons for us on justice, deliverance, hope, and faith. But this post is about one lesson in particular that Corrie and her family teach us through their story: How to be thankful for the fleas. So, here’s the spoiler.
Imprisoned in a Nazi work camp with her sister, Corrie discovers that the room where they are meant to work is infested with fleas. Fleas! (At about the time I read this I was ready to cash it all in. I couldn’t imagine how these dear women could take anymore.)
In response to the pest, Corrie’s sainted sister says to her, “Give thanks to God for the fleas.”
This wasn’t a platitude. She meant it. The idea, of course, was one step too far for Corrie. It’s probably a step too far for most of us at first blush. But, the sisters thanked God for the fleas and trusted He knew what was best.
Pages later, we learn that the presence of the fleas is the very thing that kept the Nazi guards out of the room. And, because of this, Corrie and her sister were left alone, without guards, and they were able to share the love of God with women who desperately needed to be loved in that moment.
When they realized this, they gave thanks to God for the fleas again. This time they knew why.
Yes, we give thanks to God. All the time. For He is good.
When God invites us to prayer, He gives us an awesome opportunity to pray for all the good blessings we seek for our loved ones and ourselves, as well as for justice, which He also promises. So many times those prayers focus on the need to overcome our challenges. Or, we thank God for delivering us over or through the challenges of yesterday. “Thank you, Lord, for healing me,” we pray.
But thanking God for a burden while we are still carrying it? Well, this is quite a different thing. I think we can do that sincerely only when we come to trust that all things are in His hands, and the One who has called us is faithful and trustworthy. Corrie’s message here is not to ignore suffering and pain, but rather to show the awesome power that comes in acknowledging God in all things.
I write this post today as an encouragement for all my friends, but specifically for my friends who are preparing for the annual American Christian Fiction Writers conference next week.
We’ll arrive in St. Louis to learn more about how to tell stories, and all of the novels that I have seen coming from this conference ultimately point to God’s goodness and faithfulness.
This will be my fourth year attending the conference, and every year I am inspired to hear about the journeys of fellow ACFW members who have overcome burdens and strongholds in their own lives. So many of these real life stories make their way into their fiction novels and they become, I think, offerings of gratitude—yes, even for the fleas.
I think authors have the opportunity to hold a special appreciation for thanking God for challenges, even if we can’t see how it’s all going to turn out in the end. After all, the Author of creation has told the world that there will be a happy ending.
This verse in Isaiah reminds me that God does not turn away from injustice.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
To deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
Making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning when disaster come s from afar?”
This verse reminds me to give thanks.
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
For you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
When I called, you answered me;
You made me bold and stouthearted.”