A couple of years ago I got to travel to Poland and instantly fell in love with the place. What’s not to love? Beautiful countryside, beautiful food and beautiful people. But in the midst of all of this beauty, one place stood apart.
It was not a place of beauty. It was a place of death. A place where families were ripped apart, where individual lives were crushed in every cruel and unimaginable way. Where the very worst parts of human nature were given free expression without fear of reprisal. This place was called Auschwitz, one of the more infamous concentration camps from World War 2 scattered across Europe. A place where literally millions of people lost their lives under the Nazi regime.
As I walked around the camp, I found myself having to stop and draw back from the tour group to just take a moment to let it all sink in. It was emotionally overwhelming. The local guides would recount stories of some of the prisoners who lived there. We saw where they slept, where they showered. We saw where they ate and where they exercised. And we saw where they died.
I remembered a book I had read as a child called ‘The Hiding Place’. It was the story of Corrie Ten Boom, a young christian girl and her family, living in Holland, arrested for helping to hide Jews during the occupation. Her parents didn’t survive the horror which followed. Both Corrie and her older sister Betsy were eventually transferred to a concentration camp in Ravensbruck, Germany, a place not too dissimilar to Auschwitz.
It was a large camp with several oversized and overcrowded barracks. Each barracks housed hundreds of prisoners. On their first day there, Betsy and Corrie were shown their sleeping platform, a wooden base covered with mouldy, foul-smelling straw. Corrie felt something pinch her leg. “Fleas!” she cried! Sure enough, the barracks were infested with them!
Through a miracle they had been able to smuggle a small Bible in with them. If caught, they would be severely punished. Betsy opened the Bible and reminded Corrie that the Word of God instructed them to pray earnestly and be always thankful.
As hard as it was, they began to thank God for the fleas.
Over the next several months, the sisters began to notice something strange. The guards never came to their barracks! They took courage and began to lead the women in prayer and Bible study right in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp! Through this, countless numbers of women came to faith in Christ. Their barracks became a sanctuary and a refuge in the midst of hell.
It was only some time later that they discovered the reason why the guards left them alone. They stayed away because of the severe infestation of fleas!
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 (NLT)
God calls us all to be vigilant in our prayers. To never stop. And He wants us to do it with an attitude of joy and thanksgiving. When was the last time we stopped complaining about our problems and instead thanked God for them. Maybe our problems aren’t really problems, what if they were just God’s blessing in disguise!
It might not be what we expected, but if God can use a flea to keep His children safe during a holocaust, imagine what He might use to help you!