“Jesus promised the Disciples three things: that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble!” ~ G.K. Chesterton
How many times have you heard these words: “We’re so blessed… We’ve got so much to be thankful for”?
You probably say them yourself — many times. Especially this time of year. Or whenever there’s news of some horror or disaster worlds away.
I know I do.
Sometimes the words come from my heart, a true expression of profound gratitude. Sometimes it’s simply the right response, even if it doesn’t feel true.
Honestly, I think most of us have had times when we felt like we had nothing to be thankful for. We know that’s not right, but it’s the reality.
There have been days — or even seasons — in which everywhere we looked, we’ve seen nothing but pain and misery, failure and frustration.
We’ve been deeply wounded, betrayed or abandoned. We’ve suffered emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially. Or all the people we love – our family and friends – are suffering, and there’s nothing we can do.
Everything starts breaking down and falling apart… even our cars, our washing machines, our refrigerators. Yes, those things are luxuries in third world countries. But not here. We have to have them to survive. We’re still paying on them…
What are we going to do?
We cry out to God, but we don’t hear anything or feel anything or see anything.
Where is He?
On days like this, I’m often reminded of where Betsie and Corrie found Him.
In a Nazi concentration camp.
Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were Christians arrested for hiding Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of Holland. They were later sent to a concentration camp in Germany, where they experienced unspeakable suffering and torment.
More than 1,400 sweat-soaked prisoners were crammed into barracks designed for 400. The plumbing had backed up; the walls and floors were soiled and rancid. There were no individual cots; only rows of platforms to sleep on, precariously stacked three high, and wedged side-by-side and end-to-end.
The first night, the sisters discovered another horror: fleas! The place was swarming with them.
As they huddled together and prayed – asking God to show them how they could survive this place – Corrie and Betsie remembered the Scripture they had read that morning in a Bible they had managed to sneak past the guards during their check-in.
“That’s it, Corrie,” Betsie said. “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!”
“Such as?” I [Corrie] 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,” Betsie went on serenely in prayer, “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.*
Corrie and Betsie began ministering to the other women in the barracks at night, comforting them, counseling them, praying with them, encouraging them, leading them to Christ in regular Bible studies and prayer meetings.
For a while, they were afraid that at any moment, the guards might burst in and put a stop to it. But night after night they were able to minister uninterrupted. Later they found out that the guards refused to set foot in their barracks – because of the fleas!
How Corrie and Betsie’s hearts overflowed with thanksgiving!
And ours can, too.
No matter how we feel, no matter how dark things seem, there is always something to be thankful for.
We can give thanks for all things.
“The most important part of our task will be to tell everyone who will listen that Jesus is the only answer to the problems that are disturbing the hearts of men and nations. We shall have the right to speak because we can tell from our experience that His light is more powerful than the deepest darkness… How wonderful that the reality of His presence is greater than the reality of the hell about us.” ~ Betsie Ten Boom (1885-1944)