Corrie ten Boom is a hero of the faith. I am certain if Corrie were alive when the author wrote Hebrews 11, he would have included Corrie in his heroes list. Corrie was not always a great woman of faith; it was hammered out through adversity, just like our heroes in Hebrews.
Corrie ten Boom and her family were a part of the Dutch underground during World War II. The punishment for people who resisted the Nazis and aided the Jewish people was to be arrested and put into prison camps. This depth of devotion was not for the faint hearted or lukewarm. On February 28, 1944, with the help of a Dutch informant, the Nazis learned of the work the ten Booms were doing, and arrested the entire family. The family was first sent first to Scheveningen prison where their father died ten days after his arrest. While there, Corrie's sister Nollie, brother Willem, and nephew Peter were all released. Later, Corrie and sister Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp, and finally to the Ravensbrück death camp in Germany. The conditions were no better for the non-Jewish prisoners. Corrie’s sister Betsie was a frail and sickly woman, yet her faith was made of steely determination. It was in the barracks of the camp that a fragile, yet unwavering Betsie jumped out of her lice infested cot and shouted, “Praise God for these fleas and lice.” Even Corrie thought that Betsie had gone crazy when she cried out those words. However, Betsie had the faith that could move mountains, and explained that the infestation kept the guards out of the prisoners' quarters, so they were able to keep a contraband Bible and conduct group religious studies. Additionally, it kept the guards from harming the women.
All too often, we look for the things labeled as positive to indicate that we are track, or even worse, for our own comfort. However, it takes true depth of faith, to look at accept that hardship is for good and has purpose. It doesn’t take faith to look at something delightful and pleasing to see that it is for gain. However, faith is the belief of things unseen. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Betsie’s example of praising God for the fleas and lice was her seeing the outstretched Hand of God at work. One might counter that had the Lord been in the mix, she would not have been in the camp in the first place. Keep in mind we were not promised comfort just that our discomfort would be put to good use. Betsie led a Bible study in the barracks, and souls were saved from an eternal prison of hell. Her sufferings mirrored Christ’s and that is model we are to use for our own lives. Therefore, Betsie was exactly where she was supposed to be. The Lord is the only one who knows the plans that have been set out for us, and thus knows exactly how the pieces of the puzzle should be fit together. Have you ever been frustrated that you were running late for work? Maybe your child delayed you and you were running ten minutes getting out of the door. You were frustrated and stressed out. Even worse, you turn on the radio and hear there is a traffic tie up on your route. Did you ever think that had you not been delayed, that you could have been in that accident? In 1984, Amy Grant wrote a song called “Angels”. In that song she sings, “God only knows the times my life was threatened just today. A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. Near misses all around me, accidents unknown, though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.”
It was 1947, Corrie had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. After one of her messages, she saw one the harshest guards she had in the prison camp coming toward her. She states, “It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.” And now he stood before her was asking for her forgiveness. That had to be one of the most horrible things to happen to her after all the suffering she went through. She states, “And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. However, forgiveness is not an emotion, I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’
“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”
All of these years later, the story is still powerful. Had Corrie determined that there was no redemptive power in what she went through in the concentration camp, she would be just another statistic of hypocrisy. However, she did not allow the painful memories to be something that stopped her, but instead, used them to further the kingdom of God through her faithfulness.
Today as you take in the Superbowl and the team you are watching makes an incredible play, think of Corrie ten Boom and ask yourself who is the real hero.