January 09, 2017

Thanks for the Fleas - Shirley S. Tye

I Thessalonians 5: 18 tells us “in everything give thanks” (KJV) and the NIV wording is “give thanks in all circumstances”. That sounds simple yet in reality it can be difficult to be thankful in all situations. In our troubles and sorrow, we usually focus on the trouble and the sadness.  We do not see the things for which we can or should give thanks.  And often we do not feel thankful.  The verse tells us to give thanks.  It does not say we ought to feel thankful.  We are to give thanks because “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)  

A few years ago, I read the account of Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom’s experience during WWII in the work prison camp.  They lived in pitiful conditions.  Many women shared one large room in which sleeping platforms – yes, platforms - they weren’t beds or cots – were three deep with no room to sit up and a narrow walkway between the rows.  The flea infested “beds” were dirty and covered in foul-smelling straw.  Their 11-hour work days began at 4:30 am and nourishment was scanty. 

Corrie and Betsie considered their situation and despite their difficult circumstances, deplorable living conditions, and cruel treatment, they found things for which to be thankful.  They were thankful they had a Bible.  The guards had not detected the Bible which Corrie had hidden under her clothes when she had been taken as prisoner.  If they had made the discovery, it would have meant death for Corrie. They were also thankful for the crowded conditions because it meant many women would hear the Word of God as Corrie and her sister read aloud in the evenings. Betsie was thankful for the fleas.  Corrie refused to give thanks for the bugs until Betsie discovered why the guards never entered the ladies’ barracks.  One day, she overheard the guards talking.  None of them were willing to enter the ladies’ barracks because of the fleas.  When Corrie was told this, she gave thanks to God for the fleas because it meant no one had to be posted on lookout duty.  They could read every evening in peace without fear of the guards discovering their Bible. 

When Corrie first refused to give thanks for the fleas, I sympathized with her. But when the discovery was made for the purpose of the bugs, I understood.  I think I would have given thanks also; however, perhaps not joyfully.

Yes, in reality it is difficult to be thankful in all situations.  I certainly focus on the trouble and the sadness when I’m trapped in a challenging circumstance.  It’s during those times that I morph into a cantankerous old bird; filled with complaints.  I need reminders and examples like Corrie Ten Boom to open my eyes and be thankful for something.  I’ll try to be more diligent, and consider my situation and give thanks for the fleas in my life.  Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Corrie!       


  1. What a great reminder, Shirley!

  2. Thanks, Shirley, for this true story of Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom being thankful in terrible circumstances for what would be true blessings for them--having a Bible and not having the officers intrude on them. "God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform; he plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm."

    As for the fleas and the stinky straw mattresses, I would probably have been grouchy and miserable too, at least until I figured out the plus side of this circumstance. Blessings, Shirley.

  3. I'd forgotten this story; thanks for reminding me! It's true we don't always know the purposes behind our trials; if we did, we might be more inclined to thankfulness. Maybe the lesson here is to look for the 'silver lining.'

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