A few weeks ago, I did a women’s ministry event at my church where we talked about different women of faith and how they influenced history. Later, I was asked to do a short spot on a different woman of faith for a monthly women’s bible study. So, I would like to bring this same idea to you! We owe much of our Christian understanding to the heroes of faith that came before us, and many of those heroes are women! God has used women throughout history to powerfully move His message forward. We can celebrate these women and learn from their legacy of faith.
This month I would like to tell you a little of the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie was a leader in the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Her family aided over 400 Jewish people in escaping the Nazis. Eventually, she was betrayed, and spent time in a Dutch prison and Dutch concentration camp, and then in Ravensbruck, one of the most notorious concentration camps in Germany. Despite her great suffering, her unwavering faith sustained her through that time. I wish I could tell you all of Corrie’s story, but I just can’t condense it into a blog post! I highly recommend that you read her book, The Hiding Place. Every page is filled with illustrations of faith under suffering. Instead, I want to share with you a few things that helped to preserve Corrie and her sister Betsie through the horrific abuse they suffered in the concentration camp.
First, Corrie never questioned God’s hand in her circumstances. I don’t mean that she always understood what was happening, or that she was always happy. In fact, she describes many moments of anger about their situation, hatred toward her tormenters, and fear of what would happen to her. But, she never asked if God really existed. She never wondered if God truly loved her. These things had been firmly ingrained in her from the time she was a little girl, and now as an adult she had unwavering trust in the goodness of God despite what she saw around her. In fact, the longer they spent in Ravensbruck, the more they learned that they were victorious in Christ: “Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”* Her suffering never made her question her faith.
Second, Corrie found purpose even in her life in the concentration camp. Corrie and Betsie managed to smuggle a Bible into the concentration camp. Their barracks were overrun with lice so the prison guards refused to enter them. Though at first Corrie struggled to see God’s grace in these conditions, she began to see even the lice as God’s gift. Without the watchful eyes of the guards, they taught, encouraged, and ministered to the women of the camp. They brought the hope of Christ into despair, and the joy of his presence in the midst of despondence. They saw in this their purpose, and having purpose allowed them to survive the camps without being destroyed.
Third, Corrie learned to forgive. Forgiveness was not an easy road for her. She learned the name of the man who betrayed them, and she was consumed with anger. It overwhelmed her and it became hard for her even to function. It wasn’t until she prayed and asked God for His forgiveness for this man that she was released. Then, years after her release, she met a man who had been one of her prison guards. He asked for her forgiveness, and she couldn’t do it. She again prayed and asked God to give her the strength to forgive, and she felt the power of the Holy Spirit running through her arm into his as she shook his hand in forgiveness. She says, “And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”* Forgiveness allowed her to break free of the prison in her own mind, and to live a full life even after life in a concentration camp.
I love the story of Corrie Ten Boom, and her example of unwavering faith. She is indeed a woman of extraordinary faith, and it may seem almost a bit far-fetched to think that we could ever have that kind of faith. However, I think that we can prepare ourselves now for the time when suffering comes. We can learn now who God is, we can ground ourselves now in what He thinks of us, and we can seek His purpose for us in every life circumstance. Then, when trials come, we can stand with Corrie Ten Boom as women of faith and praise God in the midst of our circumstances.
*Ten Boom, Cornelia; Sherrill, John L.; Sherrill, Elizabeth. (1971). The Hiding Place. Washington Depot, Conn: Chosen Books. Pages 178 and 215.