Sometimes I feel like I’m riding on a wave of emotions that I don’t understand. I certainly can’t be expected to control this—or can I? According to the Creator who made me, there is a way to control and even change what I am feeling. His Word says to . . . “Put on love. Love one another. Be of the same mind with one another. Do not envy one another. Keep fervent in your love for one another” . . . And those are just a few of the commands related to feelings.
The most helpful truth I ever learned about my emotional state was the maxim: Right feelings follow right actions. When I think the right thoughts and do the right things, the right feelings will eventually follow. Never have I seen this lived out more powerfully than in the life of Corrie ten Boom.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were interned in a concentration camp during World War II. After months of deprivation and cruel treatment at the hands of the guards, Betsie died there. Corrie was released alone. When the war was over, Corrie shared Betsie’s testimony of the love and forgiveness she found in Christ with all who would listen. The following excerpt concerns one of those speaking engagements:
“The hunger for Betsie’s story seemed to increase with time. I [Corrie] traveled all over Holland, to other parts of Europe, to the United States. But the place where the hunger was greatest was Germany.
Germany was a land in ruin, cities of ashes and rubble, but more terrifying still, minds and hearts of ashes. Just to cross the border was to feel the great weight that hung over that land.
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’
His hand was thrust out to shake mine.
And I, who had preached so often to the people the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man. Was I going to ask for more?
Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile. I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing—not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.
So again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives—along with the command—the love itself.
Follow the links below for more lessons from the life of Corrie ten Boom.
- Corrie ten Boom lesson #1: Praise for the weak things
- Corrie ten Boom lesson #2: The strongest force in the world
- Corrie ten Boom lesson #3: Just in time
- Corrie ten Boom lesson #4: This too