We all have met Christians whose circumstances determine their moods and ultimately, their faith. Happy or cranky, both attitudes are contagious, and both are indicators of a person’s relationship with God. If ever someone refused to let her situation control her faith, it was Corrie ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place.
Imprisoned in a concentration camp during Hitler’s reign, Corrie sought to find blessings in her horrific conditions. “Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings,” she later wrote. “It’s something we make inside ourselves.” Along with her sister, Betsie, she was forced to sleep on straw-covered platforms in a filthy barracks where the plumbing had backed up. The stench was unbearable, and then fleas infested the area.
Corrie asked Betsie: “How can we live in this place?”
Betsie prayed aloud that God would show them how. This is what Corrie wrote about their conversation that followed:
“ ‘Corrie, …in the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’
“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was First Thessalonians,’ I said…
“‘Oh yes: …Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances…’
“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. Give thanks in all circumstances! That’s what we can do.’”
At that point, the two sisters began to make a mental gratitude list: they had been assigned together; they were able to sneak their Bible past the inspectors; and because the room was crammed, when they spoke of Jesus, many heard of him.
Corrie’s writing continued. “Thus began the closest, most joyous weeks of all the time in Ravensbruck…In the sanctuary of God’s fleas, Betsie and I ministered the Word of God to all in the room. We sat by deathbeds that became doorways of heaven. We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope…We prayed beyond the concrete walls for the healing of Germany, of Europe, of the world.”
Betsie died in that prison, but Corrie went on to write dozens of books about her experience. Many of her quotes depict her incredible faith in tough times. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
“Jesus did not promise to change the circumstances around us. He promised great peace and pure joy to those who would learn to believe that God actually controls all things.”
“In order to realize the worth of the anchor we need to feel the stress of the storm.”
“The school of life offers some difficult courses, but it is in the difficult class that one learns the most.”
“If God sends us on stony paths, he provides strong shoes.”
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have.”
Few of us have encountered trials comparable to those Corrie and Betsie suffered. Their decision to find blessings in filth and fleas modeled Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The lesson is life-changing. When we accept the tough times and move beyond our own selfish desires, motives, and pleasures, when instead we seek to love God and bless others, we produce our own happiness. And like I said, happiness, like crankiness, is contagious.
The choice is ours: If we are to be a carrier, which do we choose to spread?