Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
On Friday, I saw A. S. Peterson’s theatrical adaptation of The Hiding Place, the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom. It was a beautiful and inspiring performance that I will be thinking about for a long time. I read the book when I was in high school, and it has continued to influence me whenever I face trials. This is a blog about courage, and I can’t think of a better example of that than Corrie and her family when they protected Jews from Nazis and were detained in a concentration camp. Without revealing too much of their story—because you should read her works or watch the play/films that have been produced about her—I want to reflect on what I have learned from their example.
God gives us strength when we need it
Despite the horrors they faced, Corrie and her sister Betsy held onto their faith, and Corrie learns that God gives her strength at the exact moment when she needs it—not before.
When Corrie worries about the future, her father asks her when she is given the ticket to get on a train.
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“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.“
Whenever I hear about tragedies, I wonder how I would handle going through them. I imagine my worst fears coming true, and I don’t believe I will have the courage to handle them. If I don’t have the strength to even imagine these things happening, how would I possibly have the strength to face them?
But when I am stuck in this cycle of worry, I’m only thinking about my own strength. Even when I remember the strength I had in the past when bad things happened, I believe that was the limit to my abilities, and that anything worse would have pushed me to the edge.
I have shared this quote from Elisabeth Elliot before, but I repeat it to myself often: “There is no grace for the imagination.”
When we worry, we can only imagine going through something based on the limited strength we have in that moment. But God hasn’t given us the strength for that moment yet.
In The Redeemed Imagination, I write about the importance of acknowledging the limits of our imagination while also working to reshape it. I can’t fully imagine what God will do, but I can imagine that God will do something, and that gives me hope.
The more I learn from the Christians who have gone before me, the more I believe that tragedy is a rare thing for a Christian. Yes, there is senseless suffering. There is heart-breaking grief. But we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Tragedies are only stories that are cut off at the bleakest moments. But if you read on, if you keep going, there is a happy ending after all.
Courage to love
The true tragedies, I think, are the people who live without Christ. This is why Betsy, even while she suffered, worried more about the unbelieving Germans around her than herself. As I watched Betsy continually show mercy and love to the people who hated her, I longed to have that kind of patience and grace. But Betsy says that she is not capable of that alone. She can’t love them, but Christ can love them through her.
Corrie and her family also accepted God’s call to love and protect the Jews who came to their home despite the dangers. In the play, before the Jews even came, Corrie’s father says they must await their “marching orders.” They were willing and ready for God to use them.
Their courage is a challenge to me today. What might God call me to? Would I be willing to follow no matter the cost? Am I ready for my “marching orders”?
I am challenged to love boldly, to give generously, and to suffer gloriously.
I will leave you with these quotes from Corrie ten Boom:
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength-carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”