Never despair

There are times when we all feel down; times when life just doesn’t seem to be treating us fairly. We all have different ways of dealing with it. Some turn to drink or drugs to escape from reality. Others turn to their God and others seek inspiration to go on.

Books are a great source of inspiration and there are countless true stories to choose from. One of my personal favourites is ‘The Hiding Place’ by Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom. It is the story of the courage, hardship, compassion, love and, above all, faith experienced by a Dutch Christian family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

An ordinary family

An ordinary family, the ten Booms had a small business repairing clocks and watches and lived above their shop in Amsterdam. When the Nazis started to round up Jews for deportation, the family began to take in Jews, hiding them in their home until they could be safely moved elsewhere and spirited away from the clutches of the Nazis. The risks were enormous but the ten Booms did not flinch from what they saw as their duty.

Arrest and death

In 1944, some two years after they had started their work, the ten Booms were betrayed to the Nazis and were arrested. They were first taken to Scheveningen prison. Ten days later Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father died there. Corrie’s sister Norrie, brother Willem and nephew Peter were later released but Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Vught concentration camp for political prisoners before being transferred to the infamous Ravensbruck concentration camp. Betsie died at the camp in December, just a few days before Corrie was released, apparently as the result of a clerical error. Betsie was a devout Christian; without her, Corrie had lost her rock but she was to survive to help holocaust survivors after the war and to write of her experiences.

Silver linings

The story is, of course, just one of many tales of humanity and courage to have emerged from those dreadful times. But for me, there is one almost insignificant episode in the whole book that stands out and serves as a reminder that there is always a silver lining if you are prepared to look.

One day in their stinking and overcrowded prison hut at Ravensbruck, Corrie was complaining to Betsie about the lice and fleas. Betsie’s reply was that the fleas served a useful purpose – they helped the prisoners because the guards would not enter the hut because of the flea infestation. She had found a silver lining where there appeared to be none.

So, if ever you are feeling down and things seem to be going against you, give a thought to Betsie ten Boom and, if you look hard enough, maybe you’ll find a silver lining too.