Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Thanksgiving in April
Yesterday, I finished a book that I had been meaning to read for more than 13 years: The Hiding Place. On the surface, the story is that of a woman who is imprisoned during WWII for aiding Jewish people and hiding them. At its core, though, The Hiding Place is about how faith in Jesus Christ will sustain the weakest person in the harshest of circumstances.
I felt moved to share one of my favorite passages from the book. When the two sisters, Betsie and Corrie, arrive in Ravensbruck (one of the worst of the concentration camps), Corrie is dismayed by their surroundings. She implores the Lord aloud in prayer, "Show us how to live here."
Betsie, always full of faith, finds her answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Corrie, a bit skeptical, challenges Betsie in the following conversation:
Betsie said, "We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about his new barracks."
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul aired room. "Such as?" I said.
“Such as being assigned her 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 for all the women here in this room who will meet You in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie. "Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear. She looked at me expectantly, "Corrie!" she prodded.
"Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds."
"Thank you," Betsie went on serenely, "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 piers to bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.
As I read this, I admired Betsie's faith and optimism, but, frankly, I agreed with Corrie. There was no possible way that fleas could be part of God's plan. Surely, there are some things we are just meant to endure, but we don't have to be thankful for them.
I was wrong. Betsie was right. The Lord really did mean ALL things.
I was humbled to this realization a little farther on in the book when Betsie realizes why the women are given so much freedom in their bunkroom. In this room, Corrie and Betsie held prayer meetings and read their smuggled Bible (a miracle all its own) to the other prisoners. Had they been caught, they would have been immediately executed. However, no guards supervised their activities in the bunkhouse. Why?
Betsie excitedly told Corrie, "I found out for sure, Corrie. I overheard two guards. The guards will not step foot in the bunkroom because of the FLEAS! Thank God for the fleas!"
Truly, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Surely, the fleas weren't enjoyable. But, the Lord can use even a flea to bless the lives of his children in unconventional and unexpected ways. May we always be thankful for whatever experiences life brings, even if we don't understand how it could possibly be a blessing.