God Enables Us To Forgive
Corrie ten Boom’s Testimony of Forgiveness
Corrie ten Boom and her family, working with the Dutch resistance, sheltered Jews during World War II in their home in Holland to save them from the Holocaust. The Nazis arrested her and her entire family and sent them off to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned together at Ravensbruck inside Germany. There they witnessed and endured unspeakable violence and despair, very nearly starving to death. Betsie was beaten by a Nazi guard, weakening her already sickly frame so that in the course of time she grew weaker and finally died.
Corrie grew sick at heart.
Yet Betsie had always prayed for God to bring good out of horrible evil. She prayed for her guards and that the atrocities of the camp could be used by God as a platform for something beautiful for God. Her words to her sister, Corrie, carried her through the remaining years of her life. Betsie had a vision from God; she "saw" the prison barracks painted green with growing plants and flowers to heal the soul. Then she turned to her sister and told her to tell the world a message from the Lord: "We must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that [God] is not the deeper still. They will listen to us Corrie, because we have been here."
Betsie died shortly thereafter. Corrie was released through a "clerical error." She returned to Holland, was liberated by the Allied Forces, and grew strong again. After the war, someone donated some concentration camp barracks and she painted them green, put gardens in them to heal the soul and so began a ministry of love and healing to her former enemies. She went often to speak in the shattered remains of Germany, carrying the message that her sister Betsie told her just before she died.
There was one moment that was definitive for Corrie. She had gone to Germany to preach the gospel of forgiveness. Listen to her words:
"It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
"He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’
"His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I who had preached so often to people ...of the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
"Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? ‘Lord Jesus,’ I prayed, ‘forgive me and help me to forgive him.’
"I tried to smile. I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. ‘Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.’
"As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
"And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself." *
When we think we cannot forgive, God can do it through us. What it takes is a decision to choose His highest and to invite our Lord into our weaknesses. Then He can forgive through us. He can also use our former despair as the starting place of care for untold people who are in desperate need of the mercy of our God.
Corrie learned to bless those who cursed her, to pray for those who despitefully used her, and through this process, learned that forgiveness is not only required but enabled. She learned that there was "no pit so deep that God was not the deeper still."
Adapted from the book Power Praying by David Chotka. Copyright © 2009, Prayer Shop Publishing. [www.prayershop.org.]
*The direct quote from Corrie is from the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Copyright © 1971. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing.