Corrie Ten Boom was born in 1892 into a loving, Christian family in the Netherlands. Corrie was living with her older sister and her father in Haarlem when Holland surrendered to the Nazis. She was 48, unmarried, and worked as a watchmaker in the shop that her grandfather had started in 1837. Her family was deeply committed to the Lord and participated in the Dutch Reformed Church. Her father was a kind man who was friends with half of the city of Haarlem. Her mother had been known for her kindness to others before her death from a stroke.
Corrie’s family was involved with her church’s effort to give temporary shelter to her Jewish neighbors who were being driven out of their homes. She found places for them to stay in the Dutch countryside. Soon the word spread, and more and more people came to her home for shelter. As quickly as she would find places for them, more would arrive. She had a false wall constructed in her bedroom that led into a hiding place for the Jewish people who were being hunted by the Nazis.
On February 28, 1944, a man came into their shop and asked Corrie to help him. He said that he and his wife had been hiding Jews and that she had been arrested. He needed six hundred gilders to bribe a policeman for her freedom. Corrie promised to help. She found out later that he was a quisling, an informant that had worked with the Nazis from the first day of the occupation. He turned Corrie’s family in to the Gestapo. Later that day, her home was raided, and Corrie and her family were arrested.
Corrie’s father died of an illness within 10 days of being arrested, but Corrie and her older sister Betsie remained in a series of prisons and concentration camps, first in Holland and later in Germany. Although for many people, the concentration camp would have been the end of their work, for Corrie and Betsie the months they spent in Ravensbruck became “their finest hour.”
Corrie’s description of her “finest hour” might lead some to believe that she was voted President of the concentration camp or elected homecoming queen of Ravensbruck. The truth of the matter is that Corrie’s finest hour was filled with constant battles with fear of the unknown.
When Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsy first arrived at the German concentration camp, they were ordered to strip naked and pass before the watching eyes of German soldiers. These godly women, raised in a devout Christian home where purity and chastity were virtues, were horrified at the experience. Not only were they enduring incredible humiliation, they also did not know whether they would be allowed to live or be executed. There was the terror of the unknown before them and they feared for their lives because they knew they were considered the enemy.
How did they keep from coming undone in their experience? Were they able to keep “the peace that surpasses all understanding” as they stood before the guards filled with curiosity, anger, and blatant lust? You better believe they did. Corrie tells the story of how her sister, Betsy, turned to her and said that they were going to rejoice in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings because Jesus had been stripped naked and exposed to the eyes of men at Calvary.
Time and time again, through all kinds of humiliating and degrading experiences, through watching countless people killed, and with the smell of death all around them they rejoiced through their fear. They didn’t rejoice because there was something to rejoice about, but because there was Someone in whom they could rejoice. Their fear and doubt were conquered by a deep faith that enabled them to rejoice – no matter what their circumstances or their future.
Because of the strength they drew from keeping their eyes on Christ, who had suffered so willingly for them, Corrie and Betsie were able to keep their eyes off of themselves and minister hope and faith to those around them. Corrie describes a typical evening in which they would use their smuggled Bible to hold worship services:
At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. These were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28. A single meeting night might include a recital of the Magnificat in Latin by a group of Roman Catholics, a whispered hymn by some Lutherans, and a chant by Easter Orthodox women. With each moment the crowd around us would swell, packing the nearby platforms, hanging over the edges, until the high structures groaned and swayed. At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb. (Ten Boom 1971, p. 201)
Corrie and Betsie faithfully ministered to their imprisoned and desperate congregation that was housed in the shadow of the crematorium. They overcame their fear of what could happen for their own lives by keeping their eyes on the One who had suffered on Calvary’s cross, willingly, for them. In response to their stance of faith, Jesus empowered them by His Spirit, to touch countless lives that would eventually make their way to death’s door. Corrie writes,
If God had not used my sister Betsie and me to bring them to Him, they would never have heard of Him. Many died, or were killed, but many died with the name of Jesus on their lips. They were well worth all our suffering. Faith is like a radar which sees through the fog-the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.
Betsie, whose health was weak throughout her time in the concentration camp, grew steadily weaker and died on December 16, 1944, just 12 days before Corrie was released from Ravensbruck. Some of her last words to Corrie were, “…we must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.” (Ten Boom, 1971, p. 217)
On December 28, 1944, after ten months of living in concentration camps, Corrie Ten Boom was free. She had lost her father and beloved sister to the horrors of Nazi death camps. For the rest of her life Corrie Ten Boom would tell the story of God’s deep love, His faithfulness in all situations, to countless millions around the world.
When we stand, staring fears greatest threats square in the face, there is no place to gaze, no other place to stand than in the presence of Almighty God. This is the place where we can gain the peace and power that is needed to faithfully stand even though the winds of turbulence beat against our soul and the waves of fear wash over our hearts. We must gaze into His faithfulness, look into His eyes of mercy, and think constantly about His power and Sovereign grace that empowers us to faithfully stand regardless of what may come.
Corrie Ten Boom once said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
As we come to our last study of the Prophet of Habakkuk we have seen how fear and uncertainty have gripped his heart as he learned of God’s plan for his people in Judah. To think that God would send such a bloodthirsty nation as the Chaldeans to exact His judgment against God’s chosen people was a thought that Habakkuk could not even fathom. Habakkuk argued, he complained, he reminded God of His impeccable character and how this decision just didn’t square with what he knew of God. As we arrive at the closing chapter of Habakkuk’s encounter with God we learn that he wasn’t going to abandon his faith – Habakkuk would trust in God.
You may be going through a trial that has you puzzled. You have wondered how this horror, this tragedy, your pain – could possibly “work together for good” in your life and the lives of those around you. I want to encourage you today to think deeply about what we will learn from Habakkuk during our study this morning. If we will heed his words then we will be able to cling to the One who has sustained those who suffer, those whose heads were filled with questions as their bodies and souls were riddled with pain throughout the history of the world. Let’s read together from Habakkuk 3 as we begin our study.
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. 2 LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. 3 God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. 4 His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden. 5 Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps. 6 He stood, and shook the earth; he looked, and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed. His ways are eternal. 7 I saw the tents of Cushan in distress, the dwellings of Midian in anguish. 8 Were you angry with the rivers, O LORD? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode with your horses and your victorious chariots? 9 You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah. You split the earth with rivers; 10 the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. 11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. 12 In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations. 13 You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot. Selah. 14 With his own spear you pierced his head when his warriors stormed out to scatter us, gloating as though about to devour the wretched who were in hiding. 15 You trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters. 16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. For the director of music. On my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:1-19 NIV)
As you read the very first phrase of Habakkuk’s prayer we read, “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.” When we come to the last sentence of his prayer, we find this phrase, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.” Habakkuk’s prayer was written as a song. There is nothing that touches the soul as deeply as a song. Habakkuk’s emotions were running deep when he laid down his pen, began to roll up the scroll of his encounter with God, and sang this song of faith through tears of what was to come.
I want to make something perfectly clear for you as we move into Habakkuk’s prayer of faith – Habakkuk is scared, he is afraid, he is terrified. The New International Version of the Bible translates the opening phrase of verse 2 like this: 2 “LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds?” The Hebrew phrase literally means, “Lord, I have heard Your report and I am afraid.” Habakkuk knows the troubles that will visit the people of Judah and his knees are shaking. If you think that Christians don’t tremble when calamity comes knocking then I say you are out of your mind. In the opening phrase of verse 16, Habakkuk writes again about his fear when he writes these words. 16 “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.” Fear is the natural, normal reaction to upheaval and unrest in our lives. It is what we do with that fear that is of greatest consequence. Those who trust in the Lord lay their fears at the foot of the throne of God and trust Him in all things.
Our fears, our deep emotional turmoil, may not have arrived with the same circumstances as Habakkuk’s. Yet, Habakkuk’s response to his fears is applicable for all of us who have dealt with fear in the past, and for those who will deal with treacherous times in the future. When we are overwhelmed with fear it is important that we take two important steps of faith.
First, we must remind ourselves of God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people from the beginning of time. I want to set the scene for you. After Habakkuk’s confession of his fear and his plea for God to remember mercy as He pours out His judgment upon Judah, he then turns his attention to God’s history of coming to the rescue of His people.
In verse 3, Habakkuk retells, in poetic language, God’s coming from the area around Mount Sinai, Teman and Mount Paran to be exact, after having met with Moses at the burning bush, to rescue the Hebrew slaves from the hands of the Egyptians.
In verse 4, Habakkuk writes, 4 “His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.” This is probably a reference to the Shekinah glory of God that stood between the people of Israel and the Egyptian army on the night of their deliverance so that they could cross the Red Sea. Later, it was God’s radiant, Shekinah glory that led them through their years of wandering in the desert.
In verse 5, Habakkuk says, 5 “Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps.” Plagues fell on the Egyptians as God prepared to deliver the Hebrew slaves.
Habakkuk isn’t through reassuring himself that God is faithful, that God is the Deliverer who delivers those who put their faith in Him. In verses 9-11, Habakkuk writes,
9 You uncovered your bow, you called for many arrows. Selah. You split the earth with rivers; 10 the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. 11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. 12 In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.
This is Habakkuk remembering the stories he had been told of how God intervened for Joshua and his army as they battled with the five Amorite kings and their armies as they attacked Joshua’s ally, Gibeon. We can read the full account of the story in Joshua 10.
God’s Word tells us that those who trust in God do so by faith. Our faith is not a system of philosophical theorems or an ascended order of thinking – our faith if based on God’s actions on behalf of His people. We see this throughout the Old Testament, but the greatest illustration of God’s action on behalf of people is captured by a cross on a hill. Scripture says, that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God’s Word tells us that it was God’s will to “crush Him and to cause Him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10) for our sake, for the payment of our sins. These are all God’s actions, God’s interventions, into the lives of His people. What He has done before, Habakkuk knows that He will do again.
Oh the stories that you and I can tell! When we find ourselves confronted by fears of every sort we need to think, we need to meditate upon God’s Word, we need to stop and think about the countless times that the Lord has shown Himself faithful, stop and think about the promises He has made to His people. We can’t offer an emotional, “Well, I will just praise the Lord anyway.” Emotions will never get you beyond fear, truth will. The truths of God are etched on every page of God’s Word, but you and I must spend time in God’s Word to know those truths and to know those wonderful stories of God’s acts on the behalf of His people.
I don’t want this to lead you to believe that those who trust in the Lord will never see calamity or that God will always snatch you from the jaws of the lion just before he clamps down on you. I would love to be able to tell you this, but then we would have to remove the story of the Apostle Paul being beheaded from God’s Word. We would also have to dismiss Jeremiah the prophet who lived his whole life rejected and scorned by those he sought to share the truths of God with. Almost forgot about Stephen being stoned to death?get rid of that one also. And the list goes on and on. Anyone who tries to convince you that being a Christian means you will escape trouble and tragedy is only trying to sell you a black land farm in the Sahara.
What many Christians today do not know, or refuse to accept, Habakkuk knew. This leads us to the second step of faith that we must take in the face of fear. Secondly, rejoice in God our Savior regardless of your situation. Take a look at Habakkuk 3:16-18.
16 I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:16-18 NIV)
Can you picture the prophet trembling, his heart pounding, his lips quivering? Can you identify with those feelings? Gripped by fear, but recounting the mighty deeds of God in the past, the prophet says, “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” It is hard when we are waiting on the news of the doctors report isn’t it? It is difficult to be at rest when we know layoffs are coming at the plant and we don’t have enough money to make it another week. It is difficult to wait when anxiety holds us in its clutches and fear wakes us in the night. Waiting is almost unthinkable when terror tears at our hearts, but we must remember the wisdom of Corrie Ten Boom who once said, “God has no problems–only plans.”
Habakkuk is waiting for the day of God’s judgment to come. He knows what is coming and yet, because of what he knows about God, he will not succumb to fear – he is placing his faith in the hands of God as devastation makes its way to his homeland. Habakkuk says,
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Though devastation will come and my life will be changed forever – “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Can you say that with Habakkuk today? Can you honestly say that whatever may come your way, no matter how hard it may be or how many tears you cry, you will rejoice in the Lord? I want you to know that Habakkuk is not the only person in the history of the world who has found shelter under the wings of Almighty God. King David, suffering incredibly, hurting, and lonely, wrote these powerful words about his trust in God in Psalm 25
15 My eyes are always looking to the LORD for help. He will keep me from any traps. 16 Turn to me and have mercy on me, because I am lonely and hurting. 17 My troubles have grown larger; free me from my problems. 18 Look at my suffering and troubles, and take away all my sins. (Psalm 25:15-18 NIV)
In Isaiah 12, the prophet wrote about the tug of his heart towards fear and his willingness to trust in God. Read with me in Isaiah 12:2.
2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV)
Let me take you back where we began. “What will you do in the face of fear?” The world says to become a cynic. “Bad things happen all the time so get used to it.” The world denies that it will ever happen to them. “I just don’t like to think about those kind of things. I want to keep a positive mental attitude.”
Dr. James Montgomery Boice tells the story of Frank W. Boreham and a conversation he had with a friend of his one-day. Mrs. Jeanie McNab was a Pollyanna who never wanted to talk about anything other than warm fuzzies. One day Mr. Boreham said to her, “But, supposing, Jeanie?” Jeanie said, “Now don’t you have anything to do with supposings. I know them all. ‘Suppose I should lose my money?’ ‘Suppose I should lose my health?’ And all the rest. When those supposings come knocking at your heart, you just slam the door, and bolt it, and don’t let any of them in!”
That’s good advice from the world’s perspective and better advice than worrying over things that will probably never come to pass. Jeanie’s advice falls far short of Habakkuk’s advice to you and me. He says,
“Suppose the fig tree does not bud?”
“Suppose there are no grapes on the vine?”
“Suppose the olive crop fails?”
“Suppose the fields produce no food?’
“Suppose there are no sheep in the pen?”
“Suppose there are no cattle in the stalls?”
Habakkuk refused to slam the door shut because he knew he could not thwart the plans of God. He did not fear the “supposings” because one greater than these or any other supposings was in the room. (James Montgomery Boice)
What will you do in the face of fear? I want to encourage you this morning to take the step that precedes the two steps we have talked about this morning. Won’t you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life? Won’t you surrender to Him your sins, your fears, and trust Him as Lord through every detail, every trial that you will encounter in life? Invite Him in.