God of the Pit

Corrie Ten Boom’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, tells the story of an unlikely heroine — a 50 something, unmarried watchmaker from Haarlem, Holland,  who alongside her sister and father, worked with the Dutch underground during the Nazi occupation, hiding Jews in the secret annex of their home.  They were ultimately caught and Corrie and Betsie were sent to a German concentration camp where they endured unspeakable suffering.  Betsie died in Ravensbruck, but a clerical error resulted in Corrie being discharged just days before the execution of all women her age.

Corrie spent the rest of her life traveling the world sharing her message of hope amid horror  — “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

I just reread The Hiding Place, probably for the 10th time.  Here are some excerpts which I find as relevant today as when Corrie first wrote them.

(Credit to ecclesia.org for this compilation.)

The Ticket: Corrie as a child facing the reality of her father’s mortality

“I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!” “Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?” “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

 No If’s:  Corrie in Ravensbruck

“There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s kingdom. His timing is perfect. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety. His will is our hiding place. Let us pray that we may always know it. “Lord Jesus, keep me in Your will. Don’t let me go mad by poking about outside it.”

Speaking truth:  Corrie as a prisoner being summoned by the Nazi Lieutenant

“I could not sleep last night,” the Lieutenant said, “thinking about that Book where you have read such different ideas. What else does it say there?” “It says,” I began slowly, “that a Light has come into this world, so that we need no longer walk in the dark. Is there darkness in your life, Lieutenant?” There was a very long silence. “There is great darkness. I cannot bear the work I do here. Bremen was bombed again last week. Each morning I ask myself if my family is still alive.” “There is One who has them always in his sight, Lieutenant Rahms. Jesus is the Light the scripture shows to me, the Light that can shine even in such darkness as yours.”

Forgiveness:  Post War, an SS guard approaches Corrie after her speech

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I prayed, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. 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.”

 

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Whatever we face — a diagnosis, a divorce, depression that won’t lift, despair – Corrie Ten Boom’s God of love is present in our pit.

He hands us tickets when we need them – not before.

And He hears our cries for help.

 

 

God, 

Thank you for the lives of Corrie and Betsie, your servants who endured so much and lived so courageously.  Like them, may we find our strength in you, may we may show off your light in a dark world.

 

 

 

 

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