© Wendy Anne Clark, 2020
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
Over the past couple of years I have been reading and re-reading the testimonies of Christians who experienced very difficult circumstances, yet in those times continued to walk closely with God and to live in peace and joy, ministering to the people around them. These testimonies act as encouragement from the “great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us.
One book that I have read three times is the book The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom.
This is an older book, so used copies are often available on thriftbooks.com and Ebay.com.
I read this book for the first time back when I was in junior high school, then again when I was in my late 20s, and then again just recently. It was interesting to me to realize that what I most remembered about the book from reading it in the past was Corrie Ten Boom’s experience in prison and in a concentration camp, but quite a bit of the book takes place before she and her family are arrested.
I found myself asking some of the same questions that I asked back when I first read the book, but also noticing things I don’t remember noticing before. For example, Corrie believes it is okay to lie in a time of war to protect the innocent from evil people, but her sister Nollie does not agree and insists that she must tell the truth and allow God to be the protector that He is.
Corrie is confused and frustrated by her sister’s perspective and approach, but also says that Nollie has more faith than she does and wonders how Nollie can be so sure about what God wants her to do. When I read the book the first time, I took more of Corrie’s position on this question, but this time, I had a better understanding of Nollie’s side. In this story there are many things to consider about what is okay to do in protecting people from evil.
In this reading of the book I was more attuned to the different personalities and giftings of each of the Ten Boom children and of their father. I took more notice of how God worked differently and individually in their lives. Though we encounter each of these people through Corrie’s eyes and perspective, we can tell something about who they are and how they are different from each other by what they do and say.
This isn’t a book full of what I call “Sunday school answers” (simple answers to complex questions). Instead, Corrie Ten Boom is exploring how war and evil complicate what it means to believe and follow God. Will we follow even when it is not easy? Even when doing so results in harm to us and people we love? What does following God look like when we are trying to protect people from evil?
One story that stands out to me involves a Jewish woman and her baby. How to hide a baby when there is no way to assure the baby will be quiet? They are looking for a remote location, outside of the city, and when a pastor who lives on a large, rural property comes to see them, they think they might have found the perfect solution to their problem. But he refuses to hide the woman and her baby, stating that doing so would be dangerous, is illegal, and that he must follow the law.
Well-known Psychologist, Jordan Peterson, encourages us as readers, when we read historic, heroic stories, to consider who we might be in the same situation and to try to identify with those who are weak or fearful and not just with those who are heroic. In that vein, why does the pastor align himself with the law of the Nazi’s rather than as protecter of the innocent? Why do many of the Dutch people join the Germans and spy on their neighbors? Why do some choose to profit from the German occupation at the expense of their own people? Why do many others simply ignore the evil that is going on around them?
This book is full of dilemmas and hardship and suffering and evil, but it is a very encouraging book because it is also full of people who are willing to risk their lives for others and with God working, moving, providing, rescuing and using even terrible situations for His purposes and His glory. God is on the move, and He is building His Kingdom, and no evil can stop Him. That’s very encouraging news.