“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1Thess 5:18).
Honestly, my first Christmas in the mission field of Honduras was rough. We had to take a 2 hour bus ride through the jungle from Juticalpa to Catacamas to find a phone in a village hut to call home from. Beans and rice for breakfast that day, after my cold bucket shower, followed by more beans and rice for lunch. I was so homesick living in that 3rd world country!
In case any of you are having a few feelings of homesickness or even feelings of abandonment this holiday season, let me see if this story can help….
It’s simple to thank God when He does miracles and answers prayers just the way we want them answered. It’s also pretty easy to thank Him when we can look around and see many blessings in our lives. Jesus never promised us gardens of roses but He did promise he would never leave or forsake us (Heb 13:5).
In the book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom tells of a time she discovered that God was working even in the most horrific circumstances. Corrie and her sister Betsie had been imprisoned by the Nazis for hiding Jews behind the wall of their home, and Nazi prison conditions pretty well unbearable.
“All day long and often into the night, came the sounds of hell itself. They were the sounds of a cruelty altogether detached: blows landing in regular rhythm, screams keeping pace. We were commanded to stand with our hands trembling at our sides, longing to jam them against our ears, to make the sounds stop. It grew harder and harder. There was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering.”
To make matters worse, their reeking, straw-bed platforms were swarmed with fleas. How could they live in such a place? Well, Corrie read a passage from the Bible one day: ” Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18). That was Corrie’s answer: “Give thanks in all circumstances!”
She knelt down and thanked God for the fact she was together with other people. She thanked God they had a Bible. She even thanked God for the horrible crowds of prisoners. And then, she thanked God for the fleas. Her sister was horrified. “The fleas?? This was too much. ‘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.’
It turned out that she was not wrong; the fleas were a nuisance, but a blessing after all. The women were able to have Bible studies in the barracks with a great deal of freedom, never bothered by supervisors coming in and harassing them. Why? They discovered that it was the fleas that kept the abusive guards out. Through those fleas, God protected the women from abuse and harassment. Through those fleas, God protected the women from much worse things and made sure they had their deepest, truest needs met.
We all have “fleas” in our lives. We all have those things that we can see no use for, things that are obviously horrible, unpleasant, painful things that we want gone. No life is free of “fleas”, but God can use even these nasty insects for our protection and blessing. As we celebrate Christmas – and even if circumstances aren’t perfect, lets thank God for His constant care and provision, and for His hidden blessings that come in ways we can easily overlook.
My invitation: find a flea or two in your Christmas circumstance and sincerely thank God for them.