It is good to be home again. The end of the summer certainly felt like the “breaking of the Fellowship” or when the Pevensies left Narnia at the end of Prince Caspian. The last day of camp was definitely a sad day. This summer’s adventure was an amazing chapter of my life and in one way I am sorry that it is over (for this year at least!), yet at the same time I am excited about all the adventures waiting just down the road this fall! And of course, it is good to be back with my amazing family again – I missed them so much this summer!
“Fleas!” I (Corrie) cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle, and edged our way to a patch of light. “Here! And here another one!” I wailed. “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!”
“Show us. Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie. “Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”
I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. “It was in First Thessalonians,” I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen. In the feeble light I turned the pages. “Here it is: ‘Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seeks to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.
“Go on,” said Betsie. “That wasn’t all.”
“Oh yes: ‘… to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
“That’s it, Corrie. That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. “Such as?” I said.
“Such as being assigned here 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 a part of this place where God has put us.”
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for the fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
Then one day:
“Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling. “You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself.” I told her.
“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well, I’ve found out.” That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it. “But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?” Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!'”
My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”
Because of the fleas, Betsie and her sister were able to share God’s Word with so many people! It was amazing. God used the fleas to further the spread of His word, that His light might shine in the darkness of the concentration camp. Reading this really convicted me. My first thought was: How in the world did I miss this for all these years of my life? Of course I had memorized verses which say to give thanks in everything, and to do everything without complaining, so I knew it all, but yet it had never really sunk in. You see, once we realize that God has a plan and a purpose in everything (there are no accidents in God’s kingdom), it is wonderfully freeing! Knowing that God is in control and that everything happens for a reason is amazing.
I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.“
Philippians 2:14 “Do everything without complaining or arguing,“
Although I knew these verses, it wasn’t really until this summer as I was sitting there on my bunk that it really hit home. When we know that God has His mighty plan at work in everything, than we can give thanks to Him in everything. As Christians, complaining is no longer an option. Give thanks in everything – even when things seem to be going terribly wrong, even when nothing is working right, when the world seems to be spinning backwards and upside down, give thanks to God. Do not complain! Give thanks, not just in the good times or for the good things, but give thanks for the difficult things as well. We have no way of knowing what God will do with the difficult things in our lives, how He will use them to further His kingdom, to grow us, to draw us to Him, to bring Him glory. This is such a hard thing to learn, but it is so wonderful!
I mean, if God can use a flea to accomplish His great purposes… surely He can use anything and turn anything to good. Think of the story of Joseph in Genesis – sold as a slave by his brothers, yet placed in position by God in the right place at the right time to save so many lives!
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years no there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4-8)
At the start of this summer I wrote down a quote from Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan: “Complaints go up, not down.” I figured that I would use this to remind me not to complain this summer. For example, if I felt like complaining, I would talk to God about it only and not those around me. But while this was good and kept me from complaining, I had not yet taken the next step: actually giving thanks to God in everything. So, now of course, I am still working on it. If something is not going the way I think it should be, my first tendency is still to grumble rather than praise God. Thankfully, God is stronger than my weakness!
Another thing that really stood out to me this summer is that there are no accidents in God’s kingdom. Of course I always knew this in the back of my head, but it was simply a “sunday school answer,” it had not yet become real to me – not until this summer. I’m not even sure if I can explain it, but just time after time seeing how perfectly God works things out was amazing. And the tiniest little things that could so often are just written off as coincidences” are not coincidences in the kingdom of God. Several times this summer, I heard about children dealing with difficult issues just “happening” to be in certain counselor’s cabins who have also dealt with those same issues. Or, once when I just “happened” to walk into a room and “happened” to start talking to someone who it turned out, was in need of some encouragement and prayer. Or several times, when I picked something to talk about in devo’s with the staffers in my cabin, and then found out after the devo that God had laid that same subject upon their hearts as well! There were so many more times and different instances. It was so amazing to realize that there are no accidents in the kingdom of God. Again, it was something I knew, but had not really thought about!
Time after time I watched how God can use us – faulty, flawed, imperfect as we are – as long as we are faithful and obedient to His call. Remember, we talked about how God used fleas to accomplish His plan. Well, guess what – if God can use a flea, then He can use your difficult circumstances! If God can use a flea, then He can use that terrible thing that happened. If God can use a flea, then He can use you! He does not need to use you, but He wants to use you, because when you in your weakness accomplish something great, then He is glorified! This summer I realized that whenever anything went right, whenever I said the right thing, or was able to help someone else, it was not because of me – I know my own weaknesses! It was because of God and so He is the One who deserves all the glory.
So, I’m afraid this was all rather jumbled, but these are just some of the things I started to see this summer and have been thinking about since then. So my thoughts are what you see on the page! I supposed it doesn’t really matter if it makes sense to anyone else, since writing it all down has helped to make it clearer in my own mind! :)