I was in the midst of rushing around and preparing for my day, but her sweet appeal stopped me in my tracks. In just a couple of days, I was heading out of town for a conference. I knew I wouldn’t have these moments with her while I was gone, so I joined her on the couch.
Of course I’d love to cuddle. She nestled her head in my lap, and I began stroking her hair, enjoying the moment. I glanced down at her hair, and I noticed something tiny and white. I looked closer. Fear began to rise.
Oh no, not lice. . . . Please not lice.
I know there’s much to fear in our world today. But I’m pretty sure the menace of lice has been a mother’s fear throughout all generations. Like tiny vampires, these bugs live close to the scalp, feeding off your blood, causing extreme itching and discomfort. (You might start to itch just reading this article.) As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also lay tiny nits all over the head that are painstaking to remove, especially for little girls with long hair. And, now we live in an age of super lice. Oh my.
After inspecting my daughter closely, I went to check my other daughter. The news wasn’t good. And, to my dismay, I had them as well. My busy day came to a screeching halt. I called friends asking them for advice. They gave me the instructions: wash all sheets, towels, and bedding, vacuum all the floors, couches and chairs, and put any other pillows and stuffed animals in plastic bags. My washing machine didn’t stop all day.
And then the four-hour lice removal process began. Every strand of hair was inspected with a special lice comb, pulling out every nit and bug. There were too many to count.
The only reprieve in the day came when I took my oldest daughter to the doctor for an already scheduled well-check-up for school sports. It didn’t turn out to be much of a break. As the doctor listened to her lungs, she looked at me and asked, “Can you hear that raspy rattle when she breathes?” My daughter was already on an antibiotic for an ear infection. Now, the doctor told me she had pneumonia.
His Plan, Not Mine
With this news, I began to chuckle to myself. (It was either laugh or cry at this point.) The conference I was busy preparing for involved a session on the topic of contentment. Of course this is my day! God knew exactly what I needed. While I planned to spend part of my busy day by looking over my talks, the Lord provided a different avenue of preparation: life. One of the questions I ask in my session is this one: How would our lives change if we accepted all of our circumstances with thanksgiving as part of the good plan of a loving Father rather than a random series of unfortunate events?
And now God offered me the opportunity to answer it in my own life. Perspective armed with truth changes everything. The God of all the Universe knows the exact number of hairs on our heads. He knew that on this day I’d find lice on some of mine. In fact, in his goodness to me he planned for them to be there. Today, I may not understand all the reasons, but I can trust his providence.
I also experienced the reality of being cheered on in my race by the faithful witness of someone I’ve never even met. All day long, between the laundry and the lice, one story kept returning to my mind, encouraging me to give thanks in the midst of unwanted circumstances.
In the midst of World War II, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie were imprisoned in Ravensbrook concentration camp because they hid a Jewish family. Upon entering the terrible conditions of the barracks, a flea bit Corrie’s leg, and she asked her sister, “How can we live in such a place?” She wrote of their conversation in her book The Hiding Place:
‘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!’
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.
Later on, Corrie wrote of the worship services they had with the other women in the barracks as they read the Bible together (using one they miraculously smuggled past the guards). At first they were nervous to do so, but surprisingly no guard ever came near them in their meetings. They didn’t understand it all.
One day Corrie realized why they were given such freedom:
One evening I got back to the barracks late. . . . 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.
Example to Follow
Betsie’s faith and trust in God in the midst of unimaginable conditions spurred me on some 70 years later in the midst of my much easier (but unwanted) circumstances. We have no idea how far our simple acts of trusting God may travel. Could Betsie imagine that her faithful act of thanksgiving would span generations to encourage a mom living on another continent? I’m sure she had no idea. She simply walked humbly with her God, accepting all things (even fleas and lice) as coming from his hand.
What an example Betsie is for us to follow. She possessed the heart of a true theologian: one who watches both her life and doctrine closely. And her theology naturally overflowed into doxology.
Knowing that God is at work in all things allows us the ability to rejoice in all things. Whatever comes, may we be a people known for thanksgiving. May we join the chorus of the faithful, choosing to live out the gospel with hope:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
And, who knows? Perhaps in another 70 years, our faithfulness to rejoice today might encourage someone else in their race.