The Christians Classics book club read “The Hiding Place” in December. It was unanimously a “two thumbs up” book. The lives of the Ten Booms have impacted my life and I have been in awe of their humble example of Christian living. Here are 10 things I learned from the book:
1. God used ordinary people in the Bible to do great things and he still uses ordinary people to do great things. The Hiding Place is about a Christian family in Holland during WWII. The father of the family was a watchmaker and owned a store that was attached to his house. He had 3 daughters and two sons (one son died in infancy). Two of his daughters never married but helped run the household and business during their adult lives. Corrie Ten Boom was one of them. This was an ordinary family that loved God and their community. They did not have much money, but they gave generously of their resources and time. When the Jews in their community were at risk of being taken by the Germans, they naturally did everything they could to protect the neighbors that they loved and the “high risk” Jews that they did not know. The Ten Boom’s were an ordinary family that became part of the underground at great risk to their own physical safety. If you consider yourself ordinary, God can use you to do great things!
2. God calls Christians to serve Him during their entire life on earth. Corrie was the youngest in her family. She was 48 when Germany occupied her city, 52 when she was arrested and served Jesus in the Ravensbrück concentration camp as a fellow prisoner. Part of the underground work required Corrie to ride a bike in the dark after curfew, risking her life, yet she was willing to do what God called her to do. Corrie actively served God until she became ill at the age of 85. Her father, Casper, worked as a watchmaker and opened his home to all that were in need up to the time he was arrested. One of the guards at the Scheveningen prison said to Casper, who was then 84 years old, “I’d like to send you home, old fellow. I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble.” “If I go home today,” Casper responded, “I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.” Do not ever think you are too old to serve or that you “have done your time and it is someone else’s turn”.
3. Serving God may involve great sacrifices, it may be beyond our skill level, and it may not always make sense at the time. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, endured extreme physical challenges in Ravensbruck, as did all the women captives, yet God miraculously allowed them to smuggle in a Bible and as a result they were able to hold nightly Bible studies in the extremely overcrowded sleeping area (the camp was built for 6,000 prisoners but held up to 45,000 at one time). They endured the misery of a flea infestation yet found out later the reason the guards did not enter the barracks was because of the fleas, which in turn is what allowed them the time to read the Bible and minister to women in such great need. If God is not making sense in your life, you can trust He is still at work and His work often looks different than how we would expect.
4. God calls us to serve Him in different ways during different seasons of our life. When Corrie was released from Ravensbruck, she went back home and assumed she would begin work in the underground again, but God called her to do different work. He called others to do the underground work. Corrie opened “homes of healing” and traveled the world speaking.
5. God calls us to forgive. After one of Corrie’s speaking engagements, a man that was a German guard at Ravensbruck approached her and asked for her forgiveness. She remembered him. It was difficult, but she knew God called her to forgive and she forgave. Is there someone God is calling you to forgive?
6. God calls us to have a heart for all broken people, even the unlovable. After a guard had beaten a “feeble-minded” (term used in the book) girl, Corrie asked Betsy, “what can we do for these people? Afterward I mean. Can’t we make a home for them and care for them and love them?’’ Betsy replied, “Corrie, I pray every day that we will be allowed to do this! To show that love is greater!” Corrie was thinking of the “feeble-minded” and Betsy was thinking of their persecutors. Are you seeing people as God sees them?
7. God’s word is powerful and should not be taken for granted. Quote from the book: “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.” I (Corrie) would look about us as Betsie read, watching the leap from face to face. More than conquerors. … It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute-poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be.” We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.” The mystery of God’s word is so powerful! Tap into that power, spend time reading God’s word, spend time with Him and your life will be changed.
8. To serve God well, we need to be strong in our faith and follow Him in the ordinary and unordinary times of our lives. Spiritual disciplines will help us when things get tough. The Ten Booms were ready to serve in a difficult situation because they practiced spiritual disciplines their entire life. Have you been training to serve God in all circumstances? Will you be ready?
9. We do not know the future. It can change at any time. We need to be prepared. Do not think your life will stay the same. The Ten Boom’s never thought they would experience what they did. Be prepared.
10. We should thank God every day for the “little” blessings we experience. There was no comfort in Ravensbruck. Every day be thankful, for the big things such as family, a job, safety and freedom and the little things, such as a bed, running water, good food, warm clothes, color, a child’s laughter…….the list goes on as to what we should be thankful for!