A dear friend and I talked once of how we wished we had the time to reread two different books — The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss — at least once a year. (At the time, we both had very young children and finding time to finish even one book even once seemed almost impossible.) And I’ve always been better at setting lofty goals than keeping them. But, when I do return to The Hiding Place, I’m always struck that the Lord’s ways are not my ways (Is. 55:8). His plans are always so different (and better) than any I could think or imagine. I am struck by His work in and through Corrie ten Boom in and through situations that make my heart clinch in fear.
All of a life given to Him
I’m struck by the fact that she was a 50-year-old single woman when her family made the decision to hide their first Jew from the Nazis. She wasn’t young and strong and fitted for ministry in ways we’d expect — she’d led a quiet life in a peaceful, Netherlands town, faithful in small details (Mt. 25:21, 23; Luke 16:10). Then, after her family made the decision to daily risk their own lives, they saved as estimated 800 Jews from death camps. Corrie was 52 when her family was turned in to the Nazis themselves, and she was taken away to a dreaded German concentration camp.
I’m always struck that her later release from the concentration camp came due to a “clerical error.” I’m so glad God worked out that clerical error and then gave her words to recount His faithfulness for us. She said “God does not have problems (clerical errors), only plans.”
I’m struck by the fact that she was an unknown watchmaker before the war, and afterward, in her 60’s, wrote book after book and traveled worldwide, speaking of the Lord’s work. She was in her late 70′s before she ever even wrote The Hiding Place. I’m struck that Corrie suffered a stroke 7 years after its publication and never spoke again. I’m struck by the fact that she died, at age 91, a few short months after I came to know the Lord.
Never too old (or too young)
Don’t ever believe you’re too old (or too young), too unknown or too unimportant, for the Lord to work in and through you! Corrie was like a palm tree or a majestic cedar — not like withering grass — before the Lord (Ps. 92: 6-7, 12-14). She bore fruit into old age, ever full of sap and green. She spent all her years — the early ones of quiet service to God, the later ones under the darkness of evil oppression, and the even later ones in the international spotlight — declaring that “the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Ps. 92: 15)
Our Father is so kind: I read Corrie’s words of His faithfulness to her and her sister, Betsie, and I rejoice in His ways. I’m filled with thankfulness that He carried both of them through places of evil darkness and saved their wise words for our edification. I can’t wait to meet these sisters in heaven and hear them tell of His glorious deeds.
Seeing the hand of God in all things
If you’ve never read (or, like me, haven’t reread The Hiding Place in a while) here’s an excerpt that always encourages (and convicts) my heart. At this point in their story, Betsie has been sick and is therefore assigned to daily work inside the concentration camp’s barracks with the weakest prisoners. Corrie writes:
“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. 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 (to study the Bible openly),” 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 the 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.”
His ways — so different
From the beginning, Betsie had known that their flea-infested barracks must be some form of God’s good providence. The sisters had been able, through their undetected Bible and never-happened-upon, on-going Bible studies, to reach other women in the death camp who were weaker in faith. They now realized why the guards never wanted to enter their barracks — God had surrounded them with swarms of guard-thwarting fleas!
Thank you, Father, that Your ways are always and forever so much better than our ways. Thank you that we are never too old (or young), too ordinary or too small for You to work out Your plan through us. Thank you that Your power is, in fact, made perfect in our weakness, our smallness, our ordinary-ness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Thank you for faith given to women we are struck by.