Sometimes I wonder if I would have the faith to stand firm in the face of severe persecution. Would my devotion waver if put to a test of extreme physical challenge? You can't know for sure until you are there, I suppose.
Reading the life of Corrie Ten Boom has shown my a fascinating glimpse into the life of a woman that did face that situation and came out with her faith intact. We have just started reading this book together and I have enjoyed that look into the makings of the woman she became. In our readings this week three passages especially jumped out at me as formative ones in her life.
Corrie clearly had a number of amazing examples in her extended family. Her father's quiet, but unwavering faith; her mother's faith lived out in ministries of compassion even in the midst of her own needs; her aunts' proactive faith that produced pamphlets and ministries to soldiers; her siblings' faith that wrestled alongside hers to make sense of the world conflicts and racial hatred that became part of their every day lives. This was not a Sunday morning faith. They lived their faith out starting with Bible time every morning at 8:10, precisely. I don't suppose you could be a good watchmaker and not do things precisely.
The first incident that I kept coming back to took place on a treasured train ride with her father. En route she asked about a word that had come up at school that she had been embarrassed to ask about. She had tried asking others and had not received a satisfactory answer. Now, she turned to her father, and in his great wisdom he answered with a real life illustration.
He pulled his travel case down and set it beside her and asked her to carry it. Of course she could not. "Yes," he replied, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way with knowledge, Corrie. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
What a beautiful illustration! Sometimes my kids ask me those tough questions that I know they are not really ready to have the complete answer to. I will definitely follow the example of wise Father Ten Boom and comfort them with the knowledge that some things I might just carry for them for the time being.
The second situation that stayed with me also came to Corrie's memory in the dark concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It again centered around her beloved train rides with her father. And, again comforted her when she struggled to understand a problem that was bigger than her. She had gone with her mother to visit a family grieving over the loss of their baby. The baby's still body was still in the crib of the living room crowded with visitors. Corrie could not get the image and the cold finger out of her head and clung to her father at bedtime that night.
Her father asked a simple question, "Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam -- when do I give you your ticket?"
"Just before we get on our train," Corrie replied.
"Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need -- just in time."
Wow! How often do I ask God not only for the wisdom I need for today, but also for the whole week? My pastor often says, "God is never late, but He is rarely early either." Just in time. I can rest in that. He has all that I need, and will provide it just when I need it and in the amount that I need it. I guess that probably answers my concern over if I could stand in the face of persecution. He will give me what I need when I need it.
Last one . . . One of Corrie's Aunts that lived with them had an unhealthy obsession with death. She took tonics, saw her doctor more than regularly, and swooned over the faces of death she had seen. When news eventually came that her end was within weeks rather than years, they dreaded to bring her the news.
They filed into her bedroom and she knew before a word was spoken the content of the message they brought. They tried to encourage her with all she had accomplished even while her health had slipped away. Her response, "Empty, empty! How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?"
She broke down in tears as they watched and she expressed her faith in a whispered prayer to God, "Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all -- all -- on the Cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this." Again, the train ticket. God revealed Himself to her in the way she needed to see just as she needed it.
She had given and continued to give, all of her waning strength and time for Him. In that work she knew she would still come empty, standing only on the work of Christ on the cross. We serve Him to honor Him, but not to somehow climb the ranks of heaven or earn our salvation. All those deeds are just that and grow terribly dim when compared with his glorious substitution for our sin.
I pray that I can play even a small role in instilling this faith in my children. I pray that as we study, read, and live together they would grow a rock solid faith in their heavenly Father who loves them and gave Himself for them. What amazing faith!