Giving Thanks For The Fleas

pumpkins-912529-mIn a comment to my post decrying President Obama’s decision to create law through an executive order, my nephew reminded me to give thanks for the fleas. The line alludes to a true story Corrie ten Boom told in her book The Hiding Place.

She and her sister Betsy had been moved in the concentration camp to a room that was crawling with fleas. Their circumstances were bad enough, but the fleas made life almost unbearable.

Because of a passage they studied in the Bible, Betsy had been saying they needed to thank God for everything. Corrie could hardly believe her ears, but then she thought about it and thanked God that she and Betsy were together, that they had a Bible, that they had a sweater and a bottle of vitamins. Maybe a few other things.

After she prayed, Betsy said, You must also thank Him for the fleas. This seemed like too much, but Corrie wanted to be obedient to God, so she prayed again, this time thanking Him for the fleas.

Soon Corrie and Betsy began to share passages of Scripture with the other prisoners in their room after they came in from their work assignments. At first they were cautious, not wanting a guard to walk in and confiscate their Bible. But as days wore on, no guards came in the evening.

The number of women drinking in God’s word increased. Because they did not all speak the same language, Corrie would read the passage from her Dutch Bible, then someone would translate into Germany, Polish, or whatever other language was needed. This went on for weeks.

At some point Corrie had a chance to find out why the guards never came into the room to check on them. The fleas! she was told. None of the guards wanted to go into that room because of the fleas!

So, yes, God works even in circumstances we think are all wrong, when stuff happens and it makes life hard. In ways we don’t see immediately, or perhaps ever in this life, God works.

He sends a storm to stop a prophet from going the wrong way and a big fish to bring him to his knees and send him in the right way.

He takes a boy in prison because his brother betrayed him and his master’s wife lied about him, and uses him to save the lives of his entire family—God’s chosen people.

God uses an eight-year-old king to bring revival to Israel.

He takes an exiled Israelite boy and uses him to proclaim His name before Babylonian and Persian kings.

He assigns a virgin to birth the Messiah. He uses a carpenter to save the newborn child’s life from a power-hungry, paranoid king.

God sends an earthquake that opens prison doors.

I could go on and on. The Bible is replete with examples of “fleas” which looked so bad, no one if left to himself would be thankful. Thank God because you’re in prison? Exiled to a foreign land? Pregnant and not married? On the run to a far away place with the king trying to kill your family? On your knees in rubble after an earthquake broke apart your prison? In the belly of a big fish?

You have got to be kidding me!

These are not the things we trot out at Thanksgiving time to put on the list we write into our journals or hang on the refrigerator or pray over during our quiet time. These are generally the things we ask God to change, not the things we thank Him for giving.

The truth is, we’re short sighted and don’t realize what God is doing because of those fleas—not in spite of. Because of!

Our measure of what’s good is off. We’re using the wrong gauge. We think all is right when we’re comfortable, at ease, upwardly mobile, winning at work, and free to do whatever we want during our off hours.

Of course life is not centered on us and our wants, so we are at many, if not most, times aware that we have “fleas.” We want them gone. We rail at God for not removing them, for allowing them into our lives in the first place, and we dig our heels in and refuse to thank Him for sending us things that make our lives so much harder.

Such a perspective means we’re not trusting God. Do we think the “fleas” surprised Him, that He didn’t realize that particular room was crawling with them? Do we think He forgot about us or doesn’t care? Do we think He doesn’t hear or answer our prayers or that He’s not strong enough to do so even if he wanted to?

None of those things is true about God. But our lack of thankful hearts when the fleas are raising itchy welts all over our bodies, is a passive aggressive way of questioning God’s sovereignty, love, omniscience, compassion, faithfulness, and omnipotence.

Pretty much we’re saying with our complaints that we’d do it better than God. We’d get those fleas out. In fact, we’d never have let the guards put us in that room in the first place. Or better yet, if we were God, we’d never have been captured and sent to a concentration camp.

And then, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people in many lands, down through the generations, would not have heard about God’s love and forgiveness and power to save. They would not have learned that Jesus is the Victor, and that there is no pit so deep that God is deeper still.

Thankfully God is God, and people have heard the powerful message Corrie delivered after her release.

All because of fleas. Thank God for the fleas!


  1. Romans 8:28!!! This is so beautiful and truly humbling. May I print this to share with the women inside prison for Our Bible study tomorrow night?


    • Oh, absolutely. Please feel free to print and share it with them. What a privilege to be a part of your ministry, even in this tiny way!



    • Not sure what happened here, ROC, but you definitely have my permission to print this. I know it’s too late for that particular study, but if you can use it for another, please feel free. And thanks for asking.



      • They received this message…thank you!!!


  2. So true, Becky! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I love your perspective.


    • I appreciate your feedback, Carrie. Your words are an encouragement. 😀



  3. Thank you for this wonderful reminder. Becky. We truly are often very short sighted people.


    • Cherylu, I needed the reminder myself. I’m thankful God prompted my nephew to make the comment he did on my post. I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge the things in this world that aren’t as they should be, but it’s what we do after that that matters.



  4. One of my very favorite books, and probably that’s the best story in the whole amazing thing!


    • One of my favorites too. Corrie and her sister were true heroes of the faith in my book. I learn so much by reading about their steadfast trust in God no matter what the circumstances! Yes, this particular story is such a clear illustration of that. I also like the incident after the war when the prison guard comes to Corrie after one of her speeches and asks for forgiveness. Such a powerful example that God can give us what we need to obey Him.

      Thanks for joining the discussion WF. 😉


      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. A real struggle just to shake his hand. A very human hero!


  5. Reblogged this on ROC Prison Ministry and commented:
    This is what TRUE THANKS is all about. May we know that being thankful is never based on our circumstances. Thankfulness and True Joy always come from our complete trust of our LORD. Not in our fears of controlling situations. He has plans for our lives that are always above what we could ever think or imagine. His ways are perfect. Thank you, again, for your posts Rebecca. 🙂


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