In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to honor a life profoundly lived—that of Corrie ten Boom. During World War II, when Nazi forces took control of the Netherlands, Corrie and her family fought back in their own way—becoming part of the Dutch Resistance in Holland. They helped hide nearly 800 Jewish men, women, and children, saving their lives.
On February 28, 1944, the ten Boom family was betrayed and their home raided, resulting in their arrest and imprisonment. Corrie was separated from her beloved sister, Betsie, and sentenced to spend her first months in prison, in solitary confinement. Their father was offered his freedom if he promised to no longer aid the Jews. He refused and would die a mere 10 days later. During this uncertain and difficult time, Corrie found God’s grace and strength crucial to her survival. She leaned on Jesus daily in her deepest pain.
Although she was reunited with Betsie in prison not long afterward, the sisters had no idea they were about to be sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp, designated for women.
At Ravensbruck, the ten Boom sisters faced horrific suffering and witnessed great atrocities at the hands of their captors. Yet, it was in this place that they saw the Word of God shine in their darkest days. “The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.” Corrie later wrote in The Hiding Place. “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.”
Corrie’s parents had long before instilled the important role of God in her life, of living out the Gospel and depending on their Savior daily. In their family home hung a simple tile: “Jesus is Victor.” Her father was a watchmaker who loved God and his people well. Her mother and closest sister, Betsie, who both suffered poor health, knew the compassion of their Savior and showed his love to others, often at their own expense.
Remembering The Light
In the concentration camp, Corrie was known to her captors as prisoner #66730, but she found freedom beyond her circumstances. Her freedom, purpose, and joy were found in her belief in Jesus and in keeping his Word. She never lost the light of his presence. Corrie will always be known for her heroic actions that saved the lives of many, but the life she lived both in the days before and after her imprisonment are marked by daily yielding of all she knew to God. This is the great power in her story.
“This was evil’s hour: we could not run from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work.”
Corrie ten Boom yielded her life to the one who created her and looked to him for purpose. Both before and after the war, she faithfully came alongside the mentally disabled in the city of Haarlem, showing them love and valuing them. She spent time teaching them the Word of God, taking every opportunity to impart his light.
What I love about this woman’s life is her profound testimony of Jesus and his power displayed through her weakness. She was a real woman in skin like ours. She experienced love and hatred, great joy, and great pain. Daily—sometimes minute by excruciating minute—she surrendered her needs to her faithful creator. She took him at his Word. This is where the victory of Jesus shone brightest in the life of Corrie ten Boom. She laid all her weakness at his feet in exchange for all the power of heaven.
It’s tempting to look on Corrie’s extraordinary testimony of God’s power in her life as something reserved for the few. Most of us have not been called to live in such harrowing times, pressed and persecuted like she was. We can feel so separated from the life she lived. But, I believe with all my heart that Corrie would encourage us to believe a different narrative.
Our lives and circumstances are all different, but we are offered the same freedom, the same power. Corrie’s life was full of extreme examples of struggles we all face, like sickness, loss, love, betrayal, temptations, selfishness, hatred, pride, and unforgiveness.
If we allow it, her life can speak to ours one definitive and bright truth: that Jesus was, is, and will forever be victor.
“ And so I discovered that it is not in our forgiveness any more than 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.”