In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom shares of when she realized God was working even in the worst of situations. She and her sister, Betsie, were taken to a concentration camp for hiding Jews in their home. All around they were faced with adversity and horrible living conditions and treatment, yet they found comfort in the Bible studies that they would have in their barracks. At some point, they were moved to a different barrack that was filled with fleas.
Corrie could not stand the fleas, but Betsie reminded her of several verses:
Ephesians 5:20 – “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
And she encouraged Corrie to thank God for the good that they had. They thanked God for being together, for having a Bible, and for all the other women that were there who could learn more about the Bible. And then, Betsie thanked God for the fleas.
Corrie refused: "The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'"
But Betsie reminded her of the verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances…” not just in pleasant circumstances. Fleas were a part of the things to be thankful for. And so, they thanked God for the fleas.
As time went on, many attended the “bunk” Bible studies and many believed in Jesus. It was odd that no one came to check on them but they soon realized that they were never bothered by the soldiers or supervisors because the barrack was filled with fleas. The very thing that bothered them so much and had been a great nuisance turned out to be a blessing in disguise. God allowed the fleas to be there so that others could hear His word through the two sisters.
It is amazing that around this time of the year, where we are to realize and express gratitude towards God, we instead get caught up with the unimportant. During this season, so much time is spent on hoping and wishing to receive what we don’t already have, instead of focusing on what God has already given us and done for us. We spend so much energy, time, and money on things that we believe bring us happiness, but only for a short time. We worry for things and situations to the point where we don’t enjoy the time with family and friends that we are gifted.
Christians are to be the ones who are most grateful for what they have in Jesus. But it’s crazy that many times, we honestly are the worst. And yet, we are encouraged to “rejoice always,” multiple times, especially, as Paul adds, because Jesus is coming soon! (Phil 4:4-5).
We are mostly familiar with Philippians because of Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ…” But did you know that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in a Roman prison? Philippians is known for being a book of Joy, which seems odd since Paul was in a bad situation.
In this letter, Paul encourages the Philippians to trust God and not worry, regardless of their situation.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7).
The verse speaks mightily for itself, but I want to highlight a beautiful point.
We are urged to present our worries with thanksgiving, in the context of gratitude. The mental picture that comes to mind is that of a nicely wrapped Christmas present. In coming to God in prayer, we present our struggles, burdens, and problems all wrapped in gratitude. When opening a present you must first unwrap it - if you’re like my wife you love the wrapping paper so much that you carefully unwrap it which takes forever– then you can see what is inside. In the same way, we need to focus on the good things that God has already done for us, before presenting the things that we need Him to do for us now.
Why do we need to do this?
Because, if we focus on how God has helped us in the past, at times when we had no other way out or option, we will have hope for our present reality. Our present situation will be too small in comparison to God’s ability and mighty potential.
A couple of weeks ago, Chantal (my wife) was taking her boards and was pretty nervous about it. The night before we got together to pray for the next morning. We didn’t spend most of our time praying for the exam, instead, we focused on what God had already done for her. We thanked Him for Chantal’s ability to see, read, study, and concentrate; we thanked Him for His guidance throughout PT school and how He had helped her in all other exams before.
And by the time we came to praying for the actual test the next day, all worry was gone because we KNEW that God was going to help her and be with her. Our God is bigger than anything we face! We had no time to worry because we knew He was in control. And so, our only response was, you guessed it, GRATITUDE.
We were grateful before she had even taken the exam, because we knew God had been faithful and He would continue to be faithful.
Van Wilder, a great philosopher, once said, "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t take you anywhere.”
So why worry? There’s no reason to worry, God is on your side and loves you (Read Matthew 6:25-34).
And in this time of sparkly lights and Christmas trees, presents and amazing food, may we remember to be grateful for what God has already done for us and for what we already have with Him. May we realize that God is for us and He desires us to be joyful, even if we have to live among the fleas.
So, enjoy your holidays, eat all that you can, but remember to be grateful. Don’t let your gratitude be reserved solely for thanksgiving. Thank God every day, don’t worry and be grateful.