Many years ago I read a wonderful book called “The Hiding Place.” In 1975 (I was just three years old!) it came out as a film. Both the book and the movie were based on the experiences of Corrie ten Boom and her family before and while they were imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
There is a scene in both the book and the movie that really spoke to me, and I think will speak to you in this time in history that we find ourselves in.
Ravensbruck was known as one of the worst German concentration camps during World War II. The barracks where Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were housed were horrendously overcrowded and infested with fleas. The fleas were everywhere, making everyone uncomfortable with their constant biting.
One night as Betsy and Corrie were reading the Bible, which they were able to smuggle into the camp, they read I Thessalonians 5:18, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
Betsy cried out, “This means we should be thanking God for the fleas.”
Corrie’s response was one I would have had. She told Betsy that she could do no such thing. Corrie would later share her sister’s suggestion felt like a stretch beyond her ability. However, at night as they read from that smuggled Bible, they wanted to follow the words that they had read. So together they gave thanks — even for the fleas.
An interesting thing took place. The guards who used to enter the barracks and assault the women prisoners stopped doing so. Because of this, Betsy was able to hold Bible studies and prayer meetings. By doing this many of the women gave their hearts to Jesus Christ.
Several months later, the two sisters expressed their surprise that the camp guards had never come back to their barracks to disrupt or prevent the evening Bible studies they held for their fellow prisoners. It was then that Corrie discovered why the guards had left them alone and did not enter their barracks: It was because of the fleas.
The very fleas which she had so despised had actually been a God-sent protection from the cruel guards. No guards would find their Bible, their prayer group, their quiet and supportive conversations, all because they would not enter the barracks because of these tiny insects.
Corrie concluded, “My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsy’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for, her thanks for fleas.”
Corrie’s story about the fleas causes me to think about the words of Oswald Chambers: “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.”
Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
A wonderful quote from Corrie is this one: “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it.”
As we walk this challenging road there is no doubt that this season is stretching for all of us. But may our focus continually be on God, even during “tough and rough times,” and may we all continue to thank Him.
Even for the fleas.