This past fall, a friend asked if I had a certain book that she could borrow. I rummaged through our shelves and found The Hiding Place, worn and yellowing, with the old book smell on every page. But as I flipped through it, I realized that this was a treasure that had sat on my shelves untouched for too long, a book I had yet to read. It had been a birthday gift from a dear friend years before. I hadn’t meant to neglect it. In fact, I believe God sovereignly waited for the right time to share the story of The Hiding Place with me, showing his control over all things by allowing the book to sit on our shelves, collecting dust, until at last, I opened the book and the story finally made its way into my heart.
Biographies are my favorite genre to read, perhaps because they tell someone’s own story, another thread in the tapestry of God’s historical narrative. Being able to look at the span of someone’s life in a 300 page book and see God’s story of grace written across the pages is a great encouragement. The people in my favorite biographies become mentors to me. There is hope in knowing that God is working in the events of our lives for a purpose only he knows.
“I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” (The Hiding Place, p. 72)
The story begins with a glimpse into the lives of a small family and their community. Two sisters, Corrie and Betsie ten Boom and their father, a watchmaker, were a faithful Christian family living in the anxious days preceding the occupation of Holland in World War II. As persecution of the Jewish families in Holland grew, the ten Booms began to hide those who came to them for shelter. With the help of a friend, the ten Booms built a secret room inside their home. They held practice drills to prepare for the impending day of a horribly real life game of hide and seek. Out of devotion to Christ, this family created a Hiding Place for others. It seemed like practical life and spiritual realities were becoming mirrors of each other in their lives as the concept of a hiding place came from the very Scriptures they held so dear and from which Father read to his daughters every day.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path . . . Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word . . . ” (Psalm 119:105, 114)
The hiding place was not just a secret room where a handful of people at a time could hide from an enemy who sought to destroy them. In the depths of their pain, these sisters who knew Christ so well hid in him. And he led them moment by moment through the shadows. He was their Light in darkness, their Hope in despair, their Exceeding Joy in the sadness that sought to overpower them. The Lord Jesus Himself became their Hiding Place.
God is intimately acquainted with all our ways (Ps. 139:3) and orders all things for his purpose. We are not meant to know all the purposes of God, but we are meant to seek and trust in him.
During their lives, Corrie and Betsie became intimately acquainted with suffering, and Betsie, abounding in childlike faith, reminded her sister to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:13). Betsie led her sister in faith and prayer, giving thanks for everything—even the fleas in their living quarters, for she knew her Savior had a Sovereign purpose even behind those fleas.
One of the most influential parts of this book was how these women prayed, “Lord show us how to live, show us the way.” Time and again, the Holy Spirit led them in practical, everyday steps. They did the next thing, trusting God to lead, and they acted in faith. I find that when I pray this way, my heart is focused on dependence upon him and his provision.
“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer.” (The Hiding Place, p. 81)
There were moments while reading when I held tightly to my yellow highlighter, marking up quotes I wanted to remember, even parenting advice from the ten Booms’ beloved Father. Other times, I was speechless, with eyes closed and tears streaming, not able to read another word of the nightmarish existence these sisters had to endure.
Corrie and Betsie remained valiantly faithful through this ordeal. But this story, in all its fullness, points to something beyond both Corrie and Betsie and their faithfulness. It points to a place of refuge, which is not really a place at all, but a Person. It was the gift of Jesus that was given to these women and it was Jesus who ministered through these women in the darkest place on earth. Jesus was their Hiding Place.
After my friend returned the book, I held it in my hands, knowing that I needed to read this story. God greatly impacted my thinking and my prayer life through this true story. I wanted to share this reflection with others because I believe it is a story that must not be forgotten.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”