"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me" (Galations 2:20) NLT
There is a deep silence in our home when I finally put my book down, the last lines still echoing in my head. My cheeks are hot and wet, the vividness of Corrie ten Boom's life story so real, that all about me seems surreal and strange. The Ten Boom family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, during the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland. They opened their home in Haarlem, as a hiding place for Jewish people, also aiding their escape from the Nazis. Corrie was one of the few that did not find death in a concentration camp. An unassuming spinster who began a miraculous transformation that carried her through the war's greatest horrors, to a postwar career as world famous speaker and author. As I look around me at all the "riches" and comforts of our home, the soft breathing of my family safe and warm in the room next door, my heart aches with a certain knowledge. When stripped bare of all we "have" and the knife continues twisting, adding agony upon horror for what seems like an eternity, then we get a mere glimpse of what Christ endured for us.
Corrie recounts a train-trip to Amsterdam, a little girl with her loving father. During the trip she asks her father one of those "tricky" questions we hope our children will never ask. Her father simply bends down, draws the heavy suitcase from under their bench. "Please pick that up for me Corrie" he asks. Confused she strains with all her strength to lift it of the floor. "Och Pappa" she says, "I cant, it is too heavy". To which the old man replies: "It is the same with the answer to the question you have just asked me. For now, you will have to trust me to carry it for you, until you are strong enough to carry it yourself". I also, can trust my Heavenly Father to carry the answers to all the questions that reel through my mind. To hold on to the hope in what I cannot see. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
Then, when her eighty year old Pappa dies after being imprisoned, she asks herself how God himself could show truth and love at the same time in a world such as this. And the answer stands out starker than ever before: By dying. The shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world. And on the wall of her own prison cell she scratches out next to the date of his death - Released.
The barracks in the German concentration camp that she is finally assigned to with her sister, becomes the praying heart for the vast diseased body that was Ravensbruck. Rank death beads became doorways to heaven, woman that had lost everything grew rich in hope. I pray so often for things to be restored, for pain to be removed, for whatever need is pressing in my life or for those I love. But reading this account, confirmed one thing clearer than ever: Sharing in the suffering of Christ is and should always be a joy, a pathway to deeper understanding and surrendering to His will for us, not our need impressed on Him. It is part of the mystery, the "heavy suitcase" that I need to trust Him to carry for me.
She tells of a time when each day brought new horrors, conditions grew harder and harder to bear. But as the rest of the world grew stranger with pointless suffering and misery, she discovered the reason why they needed to be there. A bible is smuggled in against all odds,carried in a pouch under her prison dress. It became the centre 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. No, in all things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37). The light leaped from one gaunt face to another. More than conquerors. It is not a wish. It is a fact.
They were poor, hated, hungry - but conquerors. Because their real hunger was for their Saviour, they knew, the promise is not to be conquerors one day. We are! Even though external life grew every day more horrible, their lives were taking place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, marked by physical suffering and weakening. The other, the life with God, grew daily stronger, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
Are we desperate enough for His glory, hungry enough for His truth? Times are good now, but the labour pains are intensifying. We may feel that war and persecution of Christians only happens on the pages of history books and in countries far abroad. This war may be more subtle, but no less real. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that we are called to be prepared and equipped. Not only with oil in our lamps for the return of the bridegroom, but also with the full armour of God for the daily battle (Ephesians 6:10-18).
I wrote this a few nights ago, being so touched by Corrie ten Boom's story that I just had to write it down. Then I came to the end and suddenly had no inkling of how to conclude it. But as I read Galations 2:20 this morning I knew: We don't have to pray that we we may suffer with Christ to be part of his glory. Only that we are willing to lay down our lives, become broken in Spirit as His body was broken on the cross. When Jesus prayed: "Your will be done", that was when He lay down his life, being willing to die.
When we "die to self", we declare our willingness to become broken for His glory, so that He may live in us and His light may shine through us, as Gideon's clay jars. So I pray: Not my will, but Your will be done.