Thankful in a hellish experience

During World War Two, Corrie ten Boom and her family sheltered many Jews who were fleeing the Nazis.

In 1944 the Nazi police seized Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father. They ended up in a concentration camp, all the while holding firm to the promises of God.

One day they moved into Barracks 28. The sewers were backed up. The mattresses were soaked with urine. And when they went to bed, they got bitten because the beds were swarming with fleas.

In a near panic, she and her sister wondered what to do. But then Betsie realized that God had given them the answer that very morning while reading 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “…give thanks in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES…”

So they made a list. They were thankful that they hadn’t been separated, that their Bibles weren’t seized, and that they were crammed in with so many women so that they cold minister to and encourage so many.

Then Betsie suggested they even be thankful for the fleas! After all, it said to give thanks in ALL circumstances—not just nice ones. Corrie wasn’t sure. But she did it anyway.

As time when on they realized that had a lot of freedom in Barracks 28. So they started a worship service. Then another. People were hearing the eternal message and hope of Jesus—people who hadn’t heard it before. Women were encouraged and helped in the midst of this hellish experience.

Then one day they realized why they had such incredible freedoms. It was because of the fleas! The guards didn’t want to walk into those rancid conditions so they kept their distance.

Upon learning this, Corrie remembered their prayer of thanksgiving in ALL circumstances—even in flea infestation.

What about you? Are you able to give thanks in all circumstances? I encourage you to push yourself.

When you make the effort, I think God reminds you that no matter what you’re dealing with, he’s always loving you, he’s always providing for you, and he’s also guiding you.

It’s human to be thankful when things are good. It’s discipleship to be thankful when times are tough.

By Matthew Ruttan

  • This story is told by Corrie Ten Boom in her book The Hiding Place.
  • Today’s “Up!” is based on my Sunday message at Westminster. You can hear the 25-minute podcast here. It’s called “The True Barometer of Your Faithfulness.”


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