Fleas, Gratitude, and the Hidden Peace of God

The Hiding Place tells the story of two Dutch sisters, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, imprisoned after being caught hiding Jews from Nazis in their home. After spending time in a prison and a concentration camp in the Netherlands, the sisters were moved to Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp in Germany. Corrie ten Boom survived to write the book but it was her sister Betsie’s faith that left the deepest impression on me.

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Photo courtesy transp (https://www.flickr.com/photos/transp/)

Once, after they’d been transferred to Ravensbrück, the two women were praying together thanking God for whatever they could find to be thankful for in a concentration camp. Betsie thanked God that she and her sister were together. On this point Corrie agreed. She also was thankful that they had access to a Bible. Corrie thought so too. But when Betsie thanked God for the fleas infesting their living quarters Corrie was done. The fleas were a nuisance and couldn’t possibly be good, Corrie thought.

In God’s plan, though, those fleas ultimately protected the women and gave them greater freedom of activity in their barracks. Corrie and Betsie had been holding secret Bible studies there and would find out later that the guards avoided theirs precisely because of the fleas. Because of the nuisance they met undisturbed.

Giving thanks for things that we wish were otherwise flips situations so that we can get from them what God desires.

One of those things is peace. And it is a peace that we all too often begrudge, undervalue and treat as a consolation prize. Given how easily I forget to thank God for the good things he’s given me, how much more do I need a reminder to thank Him for the trying.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6

There’s an illustration that comes to mind when I think about His peace. Two people are stranded without boat or life vest in the middle of a raging tempest. Both cry for help. One person gets a boat to escape and the other is joined in the storm by Jesus until it calms. Do we consider the one who escaped to have received the ultimate reward or is he also blessed who has been joined in the storm by Peace itself? Is it worth as much to us to have God’s peace in the midst of trials as it is to have his deliverance?

When I vacationed with some friends a few months ago, one of them said that Christians were the most anxious people she knew. In the midst of difficulties is where the gratitude of the world and the gratitude of the Christian should come into starkest relief as Jesus promised peace unlike what the world offers (John 14:27). Just like Jesus said even nonbelievers love those who love them, they also only express gratitude for things the world considers good. For the Christian it is flipped: we love our enemies as a sign of God’s grace in our lives and we’re also called to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)–including when seemingly dealt a bad hand.

When Job’s world had been torn apart, his life and things taken, his children killed, his body afflicted, his wife urged him to just curse God already, but he responded, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) It is remarkable that Betsie and Corrie could find anything to be grateful for in a concentration camp at all.

Let us look at difficult things as an invitation to experience more of God’s peace by thanking Him for them in humility and opening ourselves up to His grace.

Written by Alicia Akins

Alicia Akins is a lover of arts, one-on-ones with friends, Asia, al fresco dining, textiles, swing dancing, and Jesus. She often jokes that she’s lived multiple lives since she’s moved 8 times in 10 years and has held a variety of jobs. She moved to DC in 2014 after a two year stint working at a museum in Southeast Asia. When not at her day job, Alicia can be found exploring street art, FaceTiming with old friends, eating her way through Chinatown, reading commentaries, or pretending to be fit at her gym.

In college, Alicia developed a love for ministry and enjoys helping women develop a deep love for the Word and an understanding of how to apply it to their lives. She’s had the opportunity to do some of that work abroad. She keeps a blog of her overseas and DC adventures at feetcrymercy.wordpress.com.

About Alicia Akins

Alicia Akins is a lover of arts, one-on-ones with friends, Asia, al fresco dining, textiles, swing dancing, and Jesus. She often jokes that she's lived multiple lives since she's moved 8 times in 10 years and has held a variety of jobs. She moved to DC in 2014 after a two year stint working at a museum in Southeast Asia. When not at her day job, Alicia can be found exploring street art, FaceTiming with old friends, eating her way through Chinatown, reading commentaries, or pretending to be fit at her gym. In college, Alicia developed a love for ministry and enjoys helping women develop a deep love for the Word and an understanding of how to apply it to their lives. She's had the opportunity to do some of that work abroad. She keeps a blog of her overseas and DC adventures at feetcrymercy.wordpress.com.

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