Perspective in a Pandemic

Being Thankful in All Circumstances

Summer is still sizzling hot, and schools are back in session. Schedules and resources are stretched to the limits while the pandemic continues to keep us from participating fully – in our careers, our personal relationships, our churches, and our communities – causing a physical, emotional, and spiritual drought for so many people. Is it possible to be thankful in all circumstances?

This summer, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of following all the rules only to see the result of my best efforts was a clear sign of more challenges ahead. I followed all the guidelines, I got vaccinated, I waited, and by the end of June – I finally felt as if I could start participating in some of my  “hands and feet” volunteer work with a local Christian youth camp. I have an auto-immune disease and my husband has diabetes, so I cautiously took a baby step and agreed to lead the Thursday morning chapel on “Excellence” during girl’s week in mid-July. I also signed Miss Emily up to attend. She was so excited since she’d been away from everyone for over a year and half!

The day before I was scheduled to lead the Thursday morning chapel on “EXCELLENCE,” I followed my super safe plan to be responsible by getting a negative COVID test before showing up to talk to 20 young girls. While I was still in the parking lot waiting for my doctor to come out and speak with me, I received a call from camp with an update that they were in the process of evacuating all the girls because a volunteer had just tested positive for the Delta variant.

Miss Emily arrived back home safe, yet sad. By mid-day on Thursday, she had a fever and felt terrible. Then, by Thursday evening she tested positive for COVID. Even though I tested negative for COVID, I decided to quarantine for ten days just like Emily. Day one of our ten-day quarantine was down-right depressing and had left us feeling somewhat defeated. For the next four days, Emily was given respite for her recovery.

Then, we picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and began her Summer Reading Challenge – with the book, The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. Each day we would FaceTime so we could see each other and then we would take turns reading chapters aloud to one another. We followed our daily reading with some discussion prompts and Emily kept a reading journal as part of her assignment for returning to school this year as an 8th grader.

Reading with Emily was a privilege that provided prospective for both of us! We got to know the beautiful Boom family and their faith as Corrie described how they lived and loved each other, how they selflessly served their community with kindness, and eventually how they provided protection for Jews from the German soldiers. The aide and protection the Boom Family provided ultimately led to them being taken as prisoners.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote in detail about how she struggled with the idea of being thankful in all circumstances while her sister, Betsie seemed to be an utterly different species with her unwavering mercy, grace, and love even for the people who hurt them and so many others. What stood out the most for me was Emily’s audible reaction to one specific dialogue between Betsie and Corrie which still has me thinking:

‘”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 piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas.

Each time they were moved to another prison or camp, their circumstances were worse than before. Betsie was weaker physically and during each excruciating exile, Corrie provided stable support to help Betsie keep moving when her body wanted to give up. Despite those circumstances and the certain risk of death, both Betsie and Corrie shared the word of God with others, spreading love and hope in a situation that was unfathomable. They supported each other with their individual strengths to make up for their independent weaknesses. 

By the time we finished reading The Hiding Place, our current situation didn’t seem so bad. Many times, I have struggled with the idea of being thankful in all circumstances. However, I don’t recall a time when I was so moved as to try and imagine myself – day after day – in Corrie’s world, faced with those exact same circumstances, yet thanking God for fleas!

I was blessed to have a mother like Corrie’s sister, Betsie – the power of one faithful servant to be the light and to show others the way by example. Corrie didn’t lack in her love of God, her willingness to wrestle internally with her very real struggle to see the world and all people through the eyes of her Maker is proof of that. I pray that like Corrie Ten Boom, we are willing to wrestle within ourselves if that is what it takes to see the world through the eyes of our Maker and to truly be thankful in all circumstances.  

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