“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
I have continued to be inspired by The Hiding Place. (see posts “Mirrored Reflection” and “A Deeper Love”)
Corrie Ten Boom records how God’s Word came alive to her while she was in prison, in ways that she had never experienced before. Suffering from an illness at the time of her arrest for helping Jews during WWII, she was assigned to a solitary cell in the Sveneningen prison. Corrie’s extended days of silence and sickness were brightened by the small Bible that was smuggled in for her. As God spoke to her through His Word, she identified with Jesus’ suffering and came to a greater understanding of God’s higher purposes as He brought victory out of seeming defeat. This is what she wrote about her solitary confinement:
“Was it possible that this—all of this that seemed so wasteful and so needless—this war, Sveneningen prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental? Could it be part of the pattern first revealed in the Gospels? Hadn’t Jesus—and here my reading became intent indeed—hadn’t Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little group and small plans had been? But…if the Gospels were truly the pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning. I would look around at the bare little cell and wonder what conceivable victory could come from a place like this. (p. 139)
Later, Corrie became convinced that God’s purposes for her and her sister Betsie included the dreaded Ravensbruk concentration camp. At first, she could not even bear to look as they approached the horrible place that would become their home for an undetermined amount of time.
“Ravensbruk!” Like a whispered curse the word passed back through the lines. This was the notorious women’s extermination camp whose name we had heard even in Harlaam. That squat concrete building, that smoke disappearing in the bright sunlight—no! I would not look at it! As Betsie and I stumbled down the hill, I felt the Bible bumping between my shoulder blades. God’s good news. Was it to this world that He had spoken it? (p. 173)
In obedience to 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to “give thanks in all circumstances,” Corrie and Betsie determined to thank God for the circumstances He had provided for them at Ravensbruk. They thanked Him that they could share the same bed, that the overcrowded conditions meant that more women could hear the Good News, and that God had allowed their smuggled Bible to pass though the guards’ rough inspection and body search. Betsie even thanked Him for the fleas in their beds, even though Corrie thought her sister was going a bit to far on that one!
“Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”
“Give thanks in all circumstances,” she quoted. “It doesn’t say in pleasant circumstances. Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” (p. 180)
Later they discovered that because of the fleas in their barracks, the guards refused to step foot inside, which gave them the freedom to minister the Word of God without any restrictions. Corrie and Betsie grew more and more certain of God’s purpose for them in the dark place He had prepared for them, and they shone His light for all to see.
But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were never shown. As for us, from morning until lights out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ..Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (p. 177-178)
When Corrie, as one of the healthy prisoners, was later selected to be sent away for munitions work, she faked poor eyesight during the vision exam so she wouldn’t have to be separated from Betsie. The joyful result was that she could join Betsie’s knitting group.
And this began the closest, most joyous weeks of all the time at Ravensbruk. Side by side, in the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by deathbeds that became doorways to heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope. The knitters of Barracks 28 became the praying heart of the vast diseased body that was Ravensbruk, interceding for all in the camp—guards, under Betsie’s prodding, as well as prisoners. We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world—as Mama had once done from the prison of a crippled body.
And as we prayed, God spoke to us about the world after the war…We were to have a large house—to which people who had been damaged by concentration-camp life would come until they felt ready to live again in the normal world. (p. 192)
Through prayer, God gave Betsie a very clear picture of the house they were to offer for rehabilitation to the sufferers of the war. Because she died just before they were released from prison, Betsie never saw this house on earth. Corrie, however, returned home to Holland after her release and had opportunities to speak about God’s deeper love from their experiences in the concentration camps. A woman who heard Corrie speak decided to donate her house for the war rehabilitation project that Corrie spoke of (and the house was the exact description of the house in Betsie’s vision!)
Do I know God’s purpose for my life in this time and place?
Just as Esther believed that God had placed her in the position of Persian Queen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to save her people from destruction, so Corrie and Betsie knew that God had carefully placed them to reach those in desperate need of God’s deeper love and life-giving hope, in the midst of the evil and hate that infected the concentration camps and the world surrouding them. They refused to lose hope in the face of darkness and apparent defeat, because just as Jesus went to the grave, He went on to rise again in unconquerable victory.
And in Him, we are more than conquerors!