A portion of The Hiding Place is forever cemented in my brain. Before I share what God has been showing me, let’s start here. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her sister and other family members, were christians hiding Jews during WWII. They were discovered and imprisoned.
“‘Fleas!’ I 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 hedged 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 seek 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:’…“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 these 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 part of this place where God has put us.
“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”
*****For the sake of moving the story along, I’ll skip forward to the passage I want you to see. They obediently gave thanks for something as miserable as fleas. They gave thanks in ALL circumstances. Now watch for the miracle.********
“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.
“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.
“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. 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.”
How many miracles are we missing because we fail to consider His ways are not our ways? Or we are so focused on ourselves, we can’t see up? Or….we fail to offer thanks?
Now let me share how God has been teaching me this. In church a few weeks ago, the pastor pointed out something I’ve never noticed in 16 years of Bible reading. 2 small words.
Psalm 116:17 “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”
Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”
A sacrifice costs something. It’s easy to thank God when life is going our way. But when it’s not, thanking Him becomes a sacrificial offering. Whoa.
Ya’ll I can’t move past this one.
Now it’s about obedience. I must offer thanks, sacrificially, as an act of obedience.
While sitting on the beach, it’s easy to whisper thanks to God. But when hunkered down by pelting rain and high winds? I typically thank God for the things I like. What I FEEL thankful for. The good things.
Or when life feels difficult, I find everything except the difficult thing and thank Him for those good things. I look for the good outside the bad. But what about the bad things?
I attended a women’s event this week that again had me hearing this idea of sacrificial thanks. It was explained that we aren’t saying this thing is good. Instead we are agreeing that God is good and Sovereign. We are aligning with His will.
Some of the “bad” things in my life have produced fruit that could only come from the difficult. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts. My quickness to complain when I dislike something.
Our new house has a ridiculous amount of light switches. We’ve lived here 3 months, and I still find myself hitting 10 switches before I find the right one. “I hate hitting 10 switches to find the light.”
Steve glanced my way, “How about being thankful you have 10 switches to hit.”
Well, that’ll stop the complaining. You see, God continues to show me how I’m prone to complain. How I want life to be my way. I want peace in my home. I want my kids to stop fighting for the love of all things holy. I want my kids to be kinder, and I’m mad they aren’t and I can’t make them. I want. I want. I want.
But this sacrificial thanks thing. It’s pretty much a wrecking ball right now. Knocking down habits and patterns of destruction in my life.
I woke today planning a glorious surprise for my boys. As I finished my coffee, I slipped quietly to the laundry room to throw a load of towels in. A smile dawned as I thought how perfect the morning would be. I envisioned excited and thankful boys who would be delighted to partake in my plans.
Then God said, “Let go of your expectations.”
I heard it ya’ll. In my spirit. I heard God speak. Clearly.
I set down the laundry basket. The smile slowly faded. And I said quietly, “Ok, Lord.”
The boys awoke. I shared bits of my plan. Life began to happen. I don’t know what mornings look like in your home. But we have 3 boys and 2 aren’t morning people. Things can get ugly fast. Like spinning out of control, and the control freak in me goes into overdrive and God is whispering…. Stop. Stop. Let me.
So I stopped. I ran to my bathroom. My hideaway. And I prayed. God, I need you. In the name of Jesus I cast out pride in the hearts inside this home. Give us new hearts. Plant kindness and patience inside each of us. Help me to not parent out of anger or impatience. Amen.
I had about 20 seconds for a help me prayer.
I walked back to the battle zone. Nothing had changed immediately after praying. Except my heart. I was submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to the fact that I’m not God. I can’t make these young men into any image I want. Praise God for that!
My boys loaded into the car. I listened to the words exchanged among them I wanted to erase. I wanted to get in there and shush them up right then. Stop them from warring with words. But I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t change their hearts. So before I entered the car, I prayed. “Thank you God for bickering kids that exhaust me. Thank you for unkind words thrown carelessly around. Thank you for disappointed expectations. Thank you for every bit of all of this.”
The miracles began to happen. For the sake of privacy I will not share the details. But I will say what happened in the minutes and hours after in the hearts of these children and me was miraculous.
I remember reading One Thousand Gifts many years ago and a line has remained with me. Ann Voskamp wrote “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.”
I guess I’m a slow learner. I agree with Ann now. More importantly, I agree with God. He is good. I will obey because I trust Him. If He sacrificed His own son for me, can I not sacrifice an offering of thanks to Him?
Miracles do happen. The greatest miracles happen when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of a heart and massages it, shapes it, forms it. When we obediently thank Him for the things that aren’t lovely, we lay down our expectations at the foot of the cross. We lay down our need to control. We lay down our pride that thinks we know best. We lay it all down and simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”
Open your hands in surrender. Keep them open to receive the miracles that can only come from a place of obedient surrender.
Thank you, God for your Word. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who brings us revelation. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving us relentlessly.