One question to snap out of any funk

by | August 26, 2013

Soon after being arrested by Nazis for hiding Jews in a secret room of their house, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom were sent to the Ravensbruck death camp.

They were ushered to the barracks, where their noses screamed that the plumbing was backed up and the bedding was soiled and rancid.

They took their place in a straw-covered platform and lay back, fighting the nausea that swept over them from the reeking straw.

Suddenly, Corrie felt something pinch her leg.

“Fleas!” she cried. “Betsie, this place is swarming with them! Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”

“Show us. Show us how,” Betsie prayed.

“Corrie!” Betsie said excitedly, “He’s given us the answer. In the Bible this morning. Read that part again.”

Betsie turned the pages to First Thessalonians and read,

“‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…'”

“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.”

“Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a fleas.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘in pleasant circumstances.'”

As time went on, they discovered that they had more freedom than they ever had during their imprisonment in these barracks.

One day Corrie returned to the barracks from collecting firewood to find Betsie in good spirits.

“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” Betsie 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!'”

And Corrie remembered Betsie’s prayer of gratitude for creatures she could see no use for.

The Chinese have a parable that sheds further insight into the ten Boom’s experience.

A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad news.”

The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news?

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor.

“Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

The next week, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared.

Good news, of course.

In his play Hamlet, Shakespeare explains that,

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

From Corrie ten Boom, a Chinese parable, and advice from Shakespeare, we find a simple question that can snap you out of any funk, help you see the good in every situation, help you overcome despair and discouragement.

When misfortune befalls you, when your expectations are violated and things don’t go as planned, ask yourself this question: How is this good?

Note the implicit assumption in the question that there are, indeed, good things to be found in any event or circumstance, no matter how challenging.

You get a flat tire. How is this good?

You get in a car accident. How is this good?

You lose your job. How is this good?

The question sparks the engine of creativity, which in turn generates positive energy. And from that energy emerges hope, faith, gratitude, happiness, solutions.

If Betsie ten Boom can thank God for fleas in a Nazi death camp, we can find reasons to be grateful for anything.

Good news, bad news, who can say? You can by asking, “How is this good?”

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