During World War II, the ten Boom family was living in Haarlem, Holland when the Germans occupied that country. The family members were committed Christians and during the next few years they helped smuggle some 800 Jews out of the country. On Feb. 28, 1944, the Gestapo raided their home and sent the family to concentration camps.
Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp located near Berlin. It was one of the worst camps, with an overcrowded and flea-infested building.
On the first morning, the sisters were reading 1 Thessalonians and were reminded to rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters.
Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months spent at the camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without interference from the guards.
It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks: the fleas.
We are often told to look at the bright side of challenging and difficult times. It is not easy to do. Some people can only see immediate events in their lives. They worry, wring their hands, fret, sweat, debate, cry. Some get so wound up about an issue, they cannot see straight.
If circumstances are such that you must endure difficulties and hardships, seek God’s wisdom. Ask God what is to be learned and gained by going through the circumstances that try to beat you down. Ask God how he is helping you right at that moment.
With your eyes focused on God, you will recognize how he is present, how he is helping, and how he is going to work everything out for the good. As you do this, you will be able to give thanks for “fleas.” There will always be something helpful, beneficial, strengthening, or grace-filled to come from every situation — even when it may not seem like it.
So remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.