This is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It’s transformational and transcendent, and it reminds me daily that, no matter how hopeless today’s problems may seem, those of us who belong to Jesus Christ needn’t worry; after all, this world is not our home.
Having instant access to such divine wisdom is one of the most wonderful things about being a born-again Christian steeped in the word of God. I’ve written often about the difference that word makes in troubled lives, particularly for those living in nursing homes. But today I'd like to revisit a memoir that really magnifies this truth.
The book is Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place (Chosen Books, 1971), the story of a family of Christians who, during World War II, risked everything to hide Jews in their home near Amsterdam – and were inevitably caught by the murderous Nazis. The Hiding Place had been sitting on my Must Read stack for years before making it to the top of the pile (and the top of my Favorite Books list) thanks to a lovely Christian book club I was privileged to belong to.
One of my favorite passages appears on pages 194 and 195 in Bantam’s 1974 edition. Here, Corrie wrote about her ministry to women sharing a barracks in the Ravensbruck concentration camp where she and her sister Betsie were imprisoned for their crimes. Corrie had miraculously smuggled a Bible into their quarters, and a nasty flea infestation kept the squeamish Nazi officers from interfering with their times of fellowship and worship.
Here’s how she described it:
“As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.’
“I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors . . . It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute – poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not ‘we shall be.’ We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.”
I believe the Lord uses all our experiences – including the misery, pain, fear and hopelessness suffered by those locked away in prisons of all kinds – to draw us to Himself, to help us to understand that “things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” If you’d like a page-turning reminder of this truth, and you haven’t yet read it, I hope you’ll dive into The Hiding Place just as soon as possible. Then please, once long-term care facilities have re-opened to visitors, consider sharing what you've learned with someone who calls such a residence "home."