Forgiveness is one of my greatest struggles. Now, I don’t mean the kind of forgiveness that comes with a side of “fake smile fries” and extra “chip on the shoulder sauce.” Anyone can do that. The kind of forgiveness I’m talking about is the kind that comes from deep within, that brings peace and healing, and that ultimately can only come from God. In my darkest times when true forgiveness seems impossible, I remember a true story that my mom shared with me about a holocaust victim named Corrie ten Boom.
Corrie ten Boom lived in the Netherlands during WWII. She was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and sister Betsie, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust by hiding them in their family home. Unfortunately, the Gestapo learned what they were doing and sent them to a concentration camp. Corrie and Betsie were able to stay together, but Betsie died at 59 after the torture she received in the camp caused her health to deteriorate. One thing I’ll never forget about Betsie is that she never lost her faith! The sisters even snuck a small Bible into the camp and led secret Bible studies whenever they could.
Right before she died, Betsie told Corrie - and this gives me chills . . . “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” Wow.
After the war, Corrie set up a rehabilitation center for other victims, wrote many books, and became a famous public speaker who traveled around the world. One day after a speech about forgiveness in Berlin, a man approached her and said, “Ah Miss ten Boom, I am glad to see you… Don’t you know me?” And suddenly she recognized him as one of the cruelest guards in one of the concentration camps she was in. He continued to say, “I now am a Christian. I found the Lord Jesus. I read my Bible and I know that there is forgiveness for all the sins of the world. I even have forgiveness for the cruelties I have done. And I have asked God’s grace for an opportunity to ask one of my very victims for forgiveness . . . so Miss ten Boom, will you forgive me?”
And in that moment her world paused, and she said to herself, “I can’t do this. I remember the suffering of my dying sister through him.” But when Corrie saw that she could not forgive, she realized that she had no forgiveness in her heart! She then thought of Jesus and how He said in Matthew chapter 6 verse 14, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” And then she prayed, “Thank you, God!! Thank you that Your love is stronger than my hatred and unforgiveness!” In that moment, she felt like she was FREE and could say, “Brother, give me your hand.” She took the man’s hand and shook it. Corrie explains that she was not strong enough to reach out her hand and forgive the man by herself, but that it was like a bolt of lightning that made her hand shoot out to shake the former guard’s hand.
Corrie ten Boom knew that she was not equipped to fully forgive on her own - she needed God . . . we all do.
The following prayer is something I’ve written for myself. Please feel free to use it for your situation.
I know that forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks You lay before me, but I also know how important it is. Thank You in advance for the times that I will fall short, but remind me that I always need to be genuinely working toward true forgiveness for others who have hurt me. Help me to be aware of all the times I have needed forgiveness myself, and how graciously You have provided it. I pray to grow in your love, and to become more like You each day.
In Your Heavenly name I pray, Amen.
To read thoughts on forgiveness from Corrie ten Boom herself, click here.