Give thanks — even for fleas

In her autobiography, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom recounts her experiences as the Nazis invaded her home in the Netherlands. She and her family witnessed the abuses the Nazis meted out, especially to the Jewish members of the community. Corrie and her family became a part of the Dutch underground, hiding Jews in their home to prevent them from being shipped off to concentration camps. This, of course, the Nazis deemed “illegal.”

Thid-FleaEventually the Ten Boom family was caught hiding Jews. For this “crime” they were imprisoned. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, eventually found themselves residents of a work camp in Germany. The first thing they noticed, upon walking into their barracks, was the entire place was infested with fleas. They were everywhere.

Betsy prayed. She thanked God for the roof, the walls…

…and the fleas.

Corrie was shocked and asked her sister why she would give thanks for the fleas that tormented them day and night. Betsy’s response came directly from Scripture.

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Corrie believed Scripture, and even knew Betsy was right. But, she could not bring herself to give thanks for the fleas.

As time went on they discovered their days were filled with abuse from the Nazi guards. They never had a moment’s peace. Betsy eventually became too ill to continue in the hard labor to which she and Corrie had been assigned. She was reassigned to knit socks for Nazi soldiers. Her new work station was in the barracks. In her new assignment she discovered peace. The Nazi guards left the sock knitters completely alone. In fact, the Nazi guards refused to enter the barracks where the socks were being knit.

SScapThey didn’t want to get fleas.

This is the time of year when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. A national holiday dedicated to giving thanks to God for His blessings. One of the things Americans typically give thanks for is our “freedom.” Ironically, freedom in America is evaporating at an alarming rate.

John W. Whitehead, a writer for, says this erosion of freedom is something Americans ought NOT be thankful for (He makes his case here). And, he is probably right. For the ever-increasing encroachment of the federal government into their lives, Americans might not want to be thankful…

But Christians should be.

Even if we can’t see the benefits of oppressive earthly kingdoms, we have God’s command in 1 Thessalonians to be thankful. We have the promises of Scripture.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28

We even have the accounts in Scripture of how God used tyrants for His own glory and for the sanctification of His people. God raised up Egypt so that HIS glory could be on display when HE delivered His people. God raised up pagan Babylon to conquer Judah so that HIS people would be corrected. God raised up Rome so that “in the fullness” of time the circumstances of the world would be just right for the coming of Jesus Christ and the spread of HIS Gospel.

empire2Living under less-than-desirable circumstances also separates the sheep from the goats. When persecution comes to the church, only the truly regenerate remain. The fakers leave when the cost gets too high. It also provides the church with a golden opportunity to put God’s love on display. The early church was birthed in the midst of the Roman Empire, one of the most oppressive states in history. A Roman soldier traveling could, at his whim, order anyone to come and carry his pack for a mile. Most people did it grudgingly (as you can well imagine) and would carry the pack not one inch farther than the law demanded. But Jesus told His disciples to have a different attitude…

“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” — Matthew 5:41


It shows the world that our circumstances do not dictate our joy, for our joy is in the Lord. It opens up doors of opportunity to share the Gospel. It glorifies God.

Certainly we should be thankful for the blessings we enjoy — friends, family, health, food, etc. But may God grant us true gratitude even for the fleas.

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