In a culture where comfort and convenience reign, relatively minor inconveniences — burned lasagna, flat tires, long post office lines, a lost Internet connection, or an unexpectedly tough hike — can seem overwhelming. If we can’t cope with these “first-world problems” without a meltdown, how will we handle a serious crisis?
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom attested to God’s loving presence, even as she faced illness and death in World War II concentration camps. She contentedly trusted that nothing separated her from God’s love — not nakedness, beatings, starvation … not even fleas.
Corrie and her sister Betsie would huddle with women at Ravensbrück reading the Bible and living its truth. As the sisters processed the horror of this concentration camp, they came across 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and its command to give thanks in all circumstances. At first, they thanked God for the few things that seemed positive, such as the fact that they remained together in the same barracks or the Bible they smuggled into camp. But Betsie pushed her sister to thank God even for flea infestation.
Corrie balked. “Betsie,” she replied, “there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie repeated. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” With that, Corrie stood next to Betsie, and the two gave thanks for the swarming fleas in Barracks 8.
For reasons the sisters didn’t understand at the time, prison guards never stopped them from holding hushed services in that space. Betsie and Corrie took advantage to read aloud Scripture, pray, and sing hymns with the women. Much later, Betsie overheard some guards talking. One admitted he was afraid to enter the barracks. Why? Because of the fleas.As much as we might resent the label, it's really true that we 21st century Western Christians tend to be pretty "soft." It's good to have a soft heart, but it's not good to have weak wills and drooping hands and weak knees and thin skin and wet-noodle backbones.
Our Father loves us enough to drive that softness out of us. If we, as Christians, read the hardness of life in this fallen world as incompatible with the love of God, suffering will surprise us (or drive us crazy wondering what we did to deserve this). We need to prepare now so that we can will endure with grace and joy and love and gratitude, glorifying the great God who never leaves us nor forsakes us, even in the valley of the shadow of death. That's what the article is all about. That's what the Bible is all about (for instance here and here, just to name a few). You might already know this. I do. But, if you're like me, you need to be reminded of it again and again until soaks down into your bones and really strengthens your soul.