One of the most memorable stories in the book "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom comes near the end, when she and her sister Betsy were in (I believe) the Ravensbruck concentration camp. I'm telling the story from memory, since I don't have the book, but the gist of it is that she and Betsy managed to smuggle a New Testament in with them and would conduct Bible studies on certain nights with the other women in their bunkhouse. Having the book was forbidden and there was a strict curfew, so they would've been in serious trouble if they'd been caught; but night after night they continued, reading and studying the Bible in spite of the restrictions.
During one evening when they were not having a study, Betsy mentioned to Corrie that she'd been thinking of the passage, "Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
"We need to give thanks for all of it," she said to Corrie. "It says in all circumstances."
So they began praying, thanking God one by one for the guards and the cold and the imprisonment itself. But then Betsy said, "And thank you Lord for the fleas."
The bunkhouse they were in had a particularly nasty problem with fleas and it was a source of constant irritation to the women sleeping there. Corrie had found them almost intolerable. "Oh Betsy," she said, "surely not the fleas!"
"In all circumstances," Betsy repeated.
So Corrie grudgingly thanked God for the fleas.
Some time later, they discovered the reason why they had been able to continue their Bible studies so long unmolested by the guards: the guards didn't want to go near that specific bunkhouse because the flea infestation was so bad. The fleas had been a blessing all along, even when they seemed like a curse.
Now, I don't have anything so seriously difficult as a life in a concentration camp to thank God for in my life; but I started thinking this afternoon how easy it is to let little things become a complaint and then let the complaint become such a Big Deal that it totally overshadows all the good that's in my life. If I start allowing myself just a little complaint now and then, the next thing I know I'll be one of those people who is never content or satisfied because there's always something wrong and annoying and irritating and worthy of complaining about. And in the end...what if the very thing I'm complaining about is really a specially-designed blessing? All that complaining would totally blind me to it and rob the joy out of everything else.
Then I realized something else: I'm allowing myself little complaints. And they're beginning to stack up.
I think it's something very important for me to do, to thank God every day - honestly and out loud - for the fleas. Little nagging annoyances that I'm letting bother me.
"Thank you, Lord, that we have no dishwasher. Thank you for the opportunity to keep track of Grandma's medicine. Thank you for all the thistles growing in the hedge. Thank you for the bathtub that needs washing. Thank you that Ben is gone without me today. Thank you that Grandma wants her bed made."
Of course, the thing I noticed right away is that once I started listing stuff that was bugging me, I started seeing all the good part or counterpart to each annoyance - or at least noticing that whatever it was tended to be a pretty silly thing to be annoyed about.
Being content is a surprisingly fragile thing. You can be a very contented person and let that contentment slip away for no real reason whatsoever when you start allowing yourself to feel annoyed at little things. A discontented person is no fun to live with - they're not even fun for themselves to live with because they're too busy being miserable to enjoy anything. In the words of the STP commercial on the radio, "Don't be that guy!" Or girl.
I'm also very thankful I do not have to be thankful for fleas.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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