Corrie ten Boom is my hero, and she has been since I was 11 years old.
I vividly remember reading of her and then going to a theater in a nearby city to watch The Hiding Place with members of my church youth group. What I read and saw forever changed my life. She made it impossible to disregard Jesus.
When I understood what she had endured in a Nazi concentration camp and why she had endured it, I was amazed. She lost her father, her sister, their home, their possessions, and other family members and friends. And to see that she risked (and lost) so much in order to save her Lord’s chosen people, I knew that a real relationship with God would require all of me as well.
With Corrie, there was no room for pretending to be a Christian or relying on my parent’s relationship with Christ to get me to heaven. The choice was mine: my way or His way; total surrender and salvation or total rebellion and condemnation.
I chose Jesus.
But unlike Corrie, my path was never quite so dark or desolate. Never so costly – until this year.
This year, the rubber hit the road.
Now, I am not saying that life has always been easy for me. It hasn’t. Like almost everyone, I have suffered lack and loss. I have endured heartache and pain, plenty of it. I have feared for my own life and the lives of those I loved. But the truth is, even in the toughest times, I made my stand in Christ Jesus and on His unfailing Word, and I eventually saw victory, here and now, on this side of heaven.
Until this year. Until I watched my son die from leukemia at the age of 37.
Up to the very moment he died, we all truly believed he would get up from that ICU bed and walk out of that hospital healed and whole. He had been a fighter all his life, a competitor, and a conqueror. So, we stood on God’s promises, and we planned for a future of sharing the Good News of our Lord and Savior.
Even as we watched Chris draw his last breath and as I placed my ear on his chest and listened to his last heartbeat – the very heartbeat that I heard years ago within my own belly – I felt total peace. I knew where my son was going, and I knew Who had given him life eternal.
But then, days later, after a life celebration with dozens coming to salvation in Christ, the darkness of reality hit me, and the waves of grief pounded me incessantly. I was literally overwhelmed by the simple fact that I could not see or talk to or hug my precious son.
And for the first time since I discovered that a new life was growing inside me back in 1985, that living, breathing gift of God was not here on earth for me to love. Chris was gone.
Yet, even in my darkness, God was there. He held me and spoke hope to me in so many ways and through so many people. One of those people was Corrie ten Boom.
Yes, I know she has been dead since 1983. She died even before Chris was born, but God is still using her mightily. I am proof.
As God repeatedly brought her to mind, I recalled all the things I knew about her, all the things I had read, and all the things I taught from her works to my own students over the years. Those thoughts gave me hope. But somehow, I knew God had more for me to learn.
So, I began to search for her online. Via YouTube, I even listened to her humbly but steadfastly speak about God. She was just as I remembered from my teenage years. I also knew she had a multitude of other books and devotionals that I had never read, so I searched for them online as well. I even began to pray that God would bring me the books he wanted me to read, that He would literally drop Corrie’s books right into my lap.
Someone at our church donated an entire library of older books. My pastor knows how I love to read, so he allowed me first pick of the books. Actually, I almost laughed aloud when he showed me the huge box of books and asked if I wanted to go through them. I knew instantly that God had a few Corrie ten Boom treasures waiting on me in that treasure trove of books.
Sure enough! I found two of Corrie’s books that I had never read before: Amazing Love, published in 1978, and Each New Day, published in 1977.
I devoured Amazing Love in two sittings. I was amazed that her insights were so timeless, so appropriate to what is happening in today’s world with Israel and Hamas. I was so convicted by my self-consumed lack of action or intercession when I read her words: “The world today is on fire. What are you doing to the fire?”
Then, I casually picked up Each New Day, which consists of really short daily devotions, almost like a single thought rather than a daily commentary. And like most people, as I glanced through the book, I stopped at important dates, like my birthday, my anniversary, the kids’ birthdays, and even the date of Chris’ death and life celebration.
Right there on the date that we buried our son, Chris, I read these words from Corrie ten Boom in 1978 about a movie that was filmed in 1974:
“I was watching the actors during the filming of The Hiding Place. The women who came out of the prison gate looked tired and cold. Then I saw the woman who was playing [me], Corrie ten Boom. There I was, sitting and looking at my own story! Suddenly it was too much. I could not keep my tears back any longer. But through that, a deep wound was healed. I knew why I had had that time of suffering. I learned a lesson that I could share with many people the world over.”
She added a quote from Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish minister during the early 1600s who was also acquainted with sorrow and grief, having lost his wife and two children: “Our little inch of time of suffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to Heaven.”
Then, Corrie ended her thought for the day with a Scripture and a prayer:
“[Jesus said] … you will be with me in Paradise,” Luke 23:43 (RSV).
“Thank You, Lord Jesus, for what You have suffered for us at the cross, for all our sins.”
Stop and think about the entirety of my written encounter with Corrie ten Boom! Really stop and think!
Here I sit in 2023, reading a devotion written by Corrie ten Boom, a woman much acquainted with death and loss. It was printed and organized specifically to appear in a book (45 years later) on the exact date on which my 37-year-old son was buried.
Not only that, Corrie quoted a pastor who had written with firsthand knowledge of grief and sorrow almost 300 years ago.
Then, she prayed to the God of the universe, the one who gave His only begotten Son, purposely to die in our stead over 2,000 years ago.
Most unbelievable of all is that God, the I AM THAT I AM, said that His Son was the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the earth.
Before the foundation of the earth, before time began God loved us.
God loved me. And my “little inch of suffering” now will not compare to my “first night’s welcome home to heaven.
God loved Chris. And as this verse in Luke promises, I can rest assured that he is with Jesus in paradise.
God loves you, too. And whatever we are suffering right this moment, as Corrie shared with such honesty, God wants to heal our deep wounds and use what we have experienced in our deepest, darkest moments to “share with many people the world over.”
But the choice is up to you and me.
And it’s the same choice I had to make 50 years ago when I first learned of Corrie ten Boom: our way or His way? Total surrender and salvation or total rebellion and condemnation?