She was a master of “hard eucharisteo,” thanking God for hard, hard things, not just with murmuring mouth, but with head and heart and life.
Shoved with all the mob of ragged women, through the gaping black hole of boxcar door, jammed so tight breath barely came, she’d said to sister Corrie, “Do you know what I am thankful for?…That Father is in heaven today.”
After standing, stripped naked, pained with humiliation under leering, sneering Nazi eyes, after Corrie’s sudden realization (“Betsie, they took His clothes, too!”), she gasped, “Oh Corrie, and I never thanked Him.”
And in the flea-infested squalor of the Ravensbruck barracks, where bad had become the worst of the worst, she turned 1 Thessalonians 5:18 almost into a game, a take-turns-giving-thanks.
“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!”
Corrie stared at her… “Such as?”
“Such as being assigned here together…”
Corrie had to agree about that!
“Such as what you’re holding in your hand” (a Bible miraculously smuggled in).
About that, too.
“For the crowding. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked expectantly at Corrie, waited, prodded.
“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”
“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and…”
That was enough for Corrie! The torment of multiplying bites from rotten, infested “bedding,” drove her to declare she wouldn’t, couldn’t, thank God for the fleas!
“’Give thanks in all circumstances,’” Betsie quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”
“And so,” wrote Corrie later, “ we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.” (In fact for what were, much worse, black lice!)
Later they discovered good reason to do so, to make it make sense. They learned why their barracks was left unentered, why they were left unmolested, unhindered in their spiritual pursuits.
No guard or supervisor would venture one footstep into their plague of vermin. They could freely read their Bible to whomever would hear, could sing and worship in growing numbers in that dimness where lost souls became acquainted with the God of grace-in-even-the-bad-places.
Betsie ten Boom taught gratitude and grace by quietly living her faith-life amid the worst of worsts. She understood and rejoiced in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Ph 3:10), and trusted Him to be working all things for the good of His called (Rom 8:28), and those He would yet call in that dark place.
Thus the door opened to transformation: from a mob of grasping, clawing, fighting women-turned-animals in a hellhole—into a beautiful church of sorts, where worship rose like sweet incense from amid the stink, and kind friends began looking out for one another’s well-being, even above their own.
And from all of this arose Corrie’s certain knowledge of God’s clear purpose for the rest of her life:
“We must tell people what we have learned here… that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen.. because we have been here.”
How often I complain of things so small, so insignificant, compared to such as Betsie and Corrie endured! May the Lord forgive my foolish sense of entitlement, and grant me grace to trust and thank as Betsie did, and live a life that teaches little lessons like those her life taught big.