When I think about radical living, I think about Corrie ten Boom. Her life sparkled with events and moments of radical faith. However, it was not always so. Corrie was brought up in a family of believers who were fervent for God. As a teen, she went through a rebellious stage (just like some of us!) but was soon compelled by the love of Christ to live a life set apart for Him. She spent the next few decades of her life serving God in church and in her community, until Nazi Germany invaded her beloved country, the Netherlands.
The first Jew came to her home in 1942. Corrie was 50. The ten Booms had heard about the persecution of the Jews in the country and sought a way to help them. Without planning to, Corrie and her family soon became part of the Dutch Underground, working to hide and rescue Jews from certain death. A secret room was built in Corrie’s room that was just 30 inches deep, the size of a small wardrobe, and this became a hiding place for many Jews before they could be relocated to a safe place.
Unfortunately, Corrie and her family were eventually caught by the German secret police. As the hiding place was too well-hidden, the police were never able to prove that they were hiding Jews, but they did find the extra ration cards that the family used to supply the refugees with food and with that, charged them for treason. Corrie, her father, her sister Betsie, and a few others were arrested. Up till they were caught, they hosted and hid an estimated 800 refugees!
After their arrest, Corrie and Betsie travelled through several concentration camps before arriving at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, a women’s labour camp in Germany. Both of them suffered tremendous physical, verbal, and emotional abuse during their time there. They were made to stand in the daily roll calls for hours in rain and snow, and humiliated by being made to strip naked for health inspections by male guards. Despite their awful conditions, they held worship services after the hard days at work, using a Bible that they had managed to sneak in to encourage each other and the women in their bunk. Corrie faced the hardest moment of her life when Betsie passed away in the camp. In the face of great suffering and heartache, Corrie found great release and refuge in the Bible, often reading until “the ache in my heart went away”.
Miraculously, due to a clerical error, Corrie was released from prison a week before the women in her age group were put to death. She was free! But there is one more story to tell. After the war, Corrie travelled the world as a public speaker to share her story of faith and forgiveness. At a sharing in a church service one day, she recognised a guard from the Ravensbrück camp who was especially cruel towards Betsie. He approached her with joy that the gospel preaches that his sins are washed away. He tried to shake her hand. She hesitated. While she preached the message of forgiveness, she herself was faced with the challenge of forgiving her enemy! As she eventually took his hand, a love sprang forth from her heart that overwhelmed her with forgiveness. She famously said, “When [God] tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
IF YOU LOOK AT THE WORLD, YOU'LL BE DISTRESSED. IF YOU LOOK WITHIN, YOU'LL BE DEPRESSED. IF YOU LOOK AT GOD, YOU'LL BE AT REST. - CORRIE TEN BOOM
Where fear and death plagued her nation, Corrie’s heart was plagued with the love of Christ, and it was all she needed as she provided refuge for those on the run. Her surrendered life is a testimony of simple things. A prayerful posture, a mind hungry for the Bible, and feet ready to move for the Gospel. These things created in her what she truly needed in providing a “hiding place” for people she barely knew: a heart that is hidden in Christ.