Corrie ten Boom has been gone now for almost 20 years. She died on April 15, 1983 in California. It was her birthday. She was 91 years old.
Corrie would have likely stayed in the Netherlands and lived out her days in relative obscurity; that is, if it hadn’t been for the remarkable way she responded to a period of intense suffering in her life. But perhaps you already know her story. If you don’t, be prepared, for it will bring back awful memories of the dark days during World War II.
Adolf Hitler had big plans and a big army. And the world found out what he had planned and just what his army could do on the eve of World War II. Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Norway, Denmark, England, the Netherlands, etc…they all found out, the hard way.
The Nazis had a vast network of concentration camps, hundreds of them. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, and Buchenwald were a few of the larger ones, but they had many, many more. They had at least one concentration or extermination camp for every three Tim Horton’s restaurants in Canada. That is a lot of camps! Hitler and his henchmen had planned on doing as they pleased with the people they conquered. It wasn’t going to be pretty.
Over 50 million people perished in the global conflict that began in 1939 and ended in 1945. This war that spanned the world was marked by a staggering and unthinkable amount of human suffering. Frederick Nietzsche saw it coming, but it came just the same. God was dead, he said, and now war would be taken to a whole new level. It was. Many suffered, but the Jewish people felt the brunt of it more than most. Six million perished in a Nazi-orchestrated genocide. Most who went into the camps did not come out alive. That is what the camps were for.
On February 28, 1944 the Gestapo knocked on Corrie ten Boom’s door in the city of Haarlem. Her family had been betrayed. Their crime? Sheltering Jews and others from the madness perpetrated by the Nazi authorities. Her father, Casper, died 10 days later. Mercifully, perhaps. But Corrie and her sister, Betsie, would have to suffer for eleven months at Ravensbruck, a notorious concentration camp for women north of Berlin. A place of unspeakable horror. Over 90,000 women died there. Betsie died in Ravensbruck just before Corrie got out.
Ravensbruck. A hellhole that marked the end of life for so many, turned out to be the beginning of a world-wide adventure for Corrie. It may sound odd, but this terrible experience actually launched her in an exciting new direction. You see, she forgave her tormentors because of her Christian faith. No, it wasn’t easy, but she did. During the next 30 plus years “God’s merry saint,” as Billy & Ruth Graham used to call her, would travel the world, visiting over 60 countries, to tell her story.
Corrie was 53 years old when she set out on this new adventure in her life. Fifty-three. She wasn’t the only one who survived the atrocities in the Nazi concentration camps. Others would also tell their stories. But she did more than just survive; she responded with God’s love and forgiveness and talked about her response with more people than likely anyone else.
Corrie’s story was unique to Corrie. Still, putting down the book Corrie Ten Boom: Her Life, Her Faith by Carole C. Carlson, I wonder if there might be something her story can teach each one of us. Hopefully nobody reading this has experienced anything close to the same level of suffering. And yet, many of you may have had a painful life experience that will destroy you if you let it.
But what if there was some way that you could take something that has the capacity to destroy you and actually use it to your advantage? You go bankrupt, and are stronger because it. You are mistreated on the job, unfairly fired, and actually better off in the end. You suffer burn-out, and as are result, are eventually able to move ahead with more confidence. Could your darkest hour really help you move ahead?
Maybe. But it all depends on how you respond to the painful part of your story.
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