Resources: www.biography.com/people/corrie-ten-boom; Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
Don’t worry; be happy. That might have been great for Bob Marley, but for those of us who are a bit more anxiety-prone, that’s not really helpful advice. It’s kind of like saying, “Don’t be sad” or “Don’t be angry.” Don’t feel what you’re feeling: it’s not helpful advice when the wolves are circling around!
We feel what we feel; and telling us not to feel what we’re feeling is not just unhelpful, it is actually harmful. It leaves us feeling more alone and alienated, because it’s obvious that they just don’t understand. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes my reality looks like a roiling stomach and cold sweats! And yet… there sits Jesus saying, “Can any of us add a single hour to our span of life by worrying?”
Corrie ten Boom was a faithful woman, a watchmaker by trade. She was born in the Netherlands in 1892, and grew up in a devoutly religious Dutch Reformed family. She wrote the book, The Hiding Place” describing her life during War II, when she and her family harbored hundreds of Jews to protect them from arrest by the Nazis.
Corrie ten Boom said something that has stuck with me for a long time. She said, “Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once… Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” That’s true, isn’t it? There we are in our roiling stomachs and cold sweats: Do we have the strength to do anything but dread? Do we have the strength to act with discernment, with wisdom? No; we’re just paralyzed and miserable. And if we act, we act out of impulse, not wisdom.
And Jesus says, Do the birds of the air worry about where their next meal will come from? Do the flowers of the field worry about how they are garbed? God takes care of them. God feeds them, clothes them. And if God will do this for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, how much more will God care for us?
I love the image of resting in the palm of God’s hand, to trust that our lives are held by One who loves us, no matter what happens. It’s not a matter of pretending that bad things don’t exist, or burying our heads in the sand, or whistling in the darkness. It’s a matter of trust that, nevertheless, we can trust God to bring about good. Not that we shouldn’t act, but that, in the midst of chaos, God can still bring about our good.
In May 1940, Corrie ten Boom was 48 years old, unmarried, living with her whole family in the family’s home above their watchmaking shop. And in May 1940, the German Blitzkrieg ran though the Netherlands and the “Nazification” of the Dutch people began. The quiet life of the ten Boom family was changed forever.
Their home quickly became a refuge for Jews, students and intellectuals. A secret room, no larger than a small wardrobe closet, was built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. The space could hold up to six people, all of whom had to stand quiet and still. A crude ventilation system was installed to provide air for those hiding in there. When security sweeps came through the neighborhood, a buzzer in the house would signal danger, and the refugees had a little over a minute to make it to the hiding place.
The entire ten Boom family became active in the Dutch resistance, risking their lives by harboring those hunted by the Gestapo. Some fugitives would stay only a few hours, while others would stay several days until another “safe house” could be located. Corrie, a middle-aged spinster, became a leader in the movement, overseeing a network of “safe houses” in the country. Through these activities, it was estimated that 800 Jews’ lives were saved.
Did she worry? With the Gestapo raiding her home? With the sounds of jackboots outside her window? I can’t believe that she wasn’t terrified at times. And yet she knew: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.”
And so she emptied herself, not into worry, but through prayer and devotion she emptied herself into God’s hands. And when she did that, God filled her with a strength beyond her own, a courage beyond her own. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God,” she said.“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
On February 28, 1944, a Dutch informant told the Nazis about them, and the Gestapo raided their home. Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp, near Berlin. Betsie died there on December 16, 1944. Twelve days later, Corrie was released- she never knew why. She was chosen to live; her sister was chosen to die.
“If you look at the world,” she wrote, “you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.” Corrie ten Boom looked to God, and found there the rest she needed to go on, the strength and the courage she needed to go on.
“You can never learn that Christ is all you need,” she wrote, “until Christ is all you have.” And with her family dead and her land in turmoil, Christ is all she had, and, as she would later understand, all that she needed.
Don’t worry; be happy. That pales in the light of Corrie’s story, doesn’t it? I love heroic stories like Corrie ten Boom’s. Stories of faith, and courage, and tenacity. It seems like extreme times allow people rise to the occasion. 9-11, Hurricane Katrina: people became their best selves and rose to the emergency before them.
But most of our life isn’t lived in emergencies; for most of our days, we are not asked to rise to an occasion which demands greatness. Instead, we’re just faced with the task of making it through the day. And most days, we can handle things ourselves. Why turn to God when all we have to do is put one foot in front of the other?
A farmer out west sat down with his family to the mid-day meal. He and his sons had already put 6 hours in the fields by this time of day, and sitting down felt good.His wife had been up since before dawn, tending the animals, baking, preparing for this meal. Sitting down felt good to her too. Before they ate, they bowed their heads to thank their Maker. “Lord,” said the farmer, “I cleared this land- hauled the boulders and trees off myself. I plowed this land in the heat of the day, and I went hungry to buy the seed to plant. By the sweat of my back I watered and weeded; by the strength of my back I harvested. And now I am grateful. So I thank myself for all my work, and I thank you for the extras. Amen.
Whatever those extras may be! The sunset maybe. I don’t know- it’s pretty vague! But you know, what that farmer said was true! God didn’t clear the land! God didn’t plow, or go hungry to buy the seed. It wasn’t God’s sweat, or God’s strength that brought that meal to the table. And yet… and yet…
In a few minutes, Virginia Zerpa from the Alzheimer’s Association of Wisconsin is going to be sharing with us what it feels like to live with Alzheimer’s. The confusion… the frustration. For the caregivers, the exhaustion… the feeling like you’re at your wits’ end.
Your kids have been sick for weeks- just when the little one is getting better, the older one starts coming down with it, and then you start to come down with it, and then it goes around again. And you’re drained and exhausted, and at your wits end.
You’ve just lost your best friend of 40 years. The funeral was long, the reception even longer, and now you’ve come home and the silence is deafening. The bed is achingly empty. And you’ve never felt so alone.
Don’t worry, be happy… doesn’t work when you’re caring for someone you love, and you haven’t slept in 3 days, or you’re sick and exhausted, or you’ve never felt so alone. Sure, we can thank ourselves for all our work and thank God for the extras- but that doesn’t get us very far when there’s not much left of us.
But placing our hearts, our spirits, our tired bodies in the hand of our loving God;resting there in the strength of God: that is the place of hope. That is a place we can leave our worry, and trust that we will be given the strength and wisdom to do what needs to be done today.
“How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource,” George MacDonald once wrote. “We go to God because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”
“How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource…” The Time of Quiet at the beginning of the service is the most profound moment of the service for me. That is when I place myself in the hand of God, when I submit my heart to the Living One. Because there’s something about… giving up. Saying “I can’t do anything more right now.”
Psalm 131:2 says, “Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a child on its mother’s breast.” “Peace I give to you,” our Lord whispers to us, “My peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you.Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27). Trust Me, child, for I am with you, as I have been and shall always be.
In the Name of the One who will never let us go, even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Note: the stories of Corrie ten Boom came from www.biography.com/people/corrie-ten-boom
SCRIPTURE FOR FEB 12, 2017
The Sermon on the Mount is Matthew’s collection of 3 years of Jesus’ teachings. This is one section of Jesus’ teaching:
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life- what you will eat or what you will drink- or about your body- what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more that clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown in to the oven, will God not much more clothe you? Oh you of little faith, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is those who do not know God who strive for all these things. But strive first for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.