Faith in God When Things Look Hopeless
On May 10, 1940, an old man and his two daughters gathered around a radio late at night in Holland. They tensely waiting to hear their prime minister address the country. Germany was at war with England and France. Will Holland join the war or remain neutral? One of the daughters, recalling that night years later, writes:
The Prime Minister’s voice was speaking to us, deep and soothing. There would be no war. He had assurances from high sources on both sides. Holland’s neutrality would be respected. There was nothing to fear. Dutchmen were urged to remain calm and to— The voice stopped. Betsie and I looked up, astonished. Father had snapped off the set and in his blue eyes was a fire we had never seen before. He said,
“It is wrong to give people hope when there is no hope. It is wrong to base faith upon wishes. There will be war. The Germans will attack and we will fall.” Then his voice grew gentle again. “Oh, my dears, I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not.” He kissed us both goodnight and in a moment we heard the steps of an old man climbing the stairs to bed.
Five hours after the prime minister’s speech, Germany invaded Holland and set in motion a series of events that turned that family’s watch-repair shop into a rescue operation headquarters.
That old man was Casper Ten Boom, father of Corrie Ten Boom who wrote the book, “The Hiding Place,” which describes her family’s involvement in aiding, hiding, and protecting over 800 Jews and resistance workers during WWII. It’s an incredible story about faith, courage, and forgiveness. Eventually, sold out by a Dutch informant, the Ten Boom rescue operation is discovered and they are arrested.
Of course the main character in the book is the author, Corrie Ten Boom, the unmarried daughter who survived. But one of the heroes of the book is her aging father, one of the finest watchmakers in Holland.
I found myself wanting to know more about this strange elderly man—who was not a Jew, but yet wore the mandated yellow Jewish star for solidarity. The Ten Booms were Dutch, but loved God’s people. Casper said, “In this household, God’s people are always welcome.”
This man had such resilient faith. He was a devout Christian who raised his family to know, fear, love, and serve Jesus. Like clockwork, every morning and evening at the same time, he would get down the family Bible, read an entire chapter, then have family prayer. That formed and fed the faith of his daughters.
Upon his arrest, Casper was offered the chance to return to his home if he promised “not to cause any more trouble.” He replied, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.” He died within two weeks, as did one of his daughters, Betsie. But Corrie survived, spreading the Gospel far and wide, to both Nazi officials, and prisoners. Her story is filled with courageous acts of faith, God-sized risks, and sacrificial obedience.
To do what the Ten Boom family did took faith. Real, living, abiding faith in God. Their faith gave them courage. Their faith gave them strength. Their faith gave them humility and love. They lived by faith—just like Abraham in the Old Testament.
In Romans 4, Paul describes not only how Abraham was justified by faith, but how he lived by faith. Paul writes:
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. —Romans 4:18–21
One of the overarching principles in that passage regarding faith is that it defies our senses. It connects us to a deeper reality beyond how things look or feel. In Abraham’s case, things looked hopeless regarding God’s promise. Abraham was nearly 100 years old. And his wife, Sarah, was 90.
Yet God promised Abraham a child. That’s insane.
Faith is not blind optimism. It’s not finding a silver lining in every cloud, whether one exists or not. It’s facing reality—however cruel and menacing it may be—but tracing it back to the ultimate source of all reality: God himself.
Real faith never comes easy. In fact, faith is a kind of death to self-trust. It involves putting to death the weak, human sources of our hope. It involves facing the grim realities of a fallen world filled with war, like Casper did when he said, “Germany will invade. Holland will fall.” Casper was saying, “Our only hope is God.” He was right.
Faith is not opposed to reason. There is a reason for the hope that is within us. But faith is often opposed to feelings and appearances. Such was the case with Abraham and Sarah.
In another place, Paul said, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
Faith is in defiance of all human calculations. Financially. Socially. Politically. It’s probably not going to be in the so distant future that the government demands you to do things, say things, affirm things that violate your commitment to Jesus
When God tells us to trust him, that means we can. That means we should. That means we must. That means we are standing on dangerous ground when we don’t. And it usually always means we’re going to have to kill self-trust.
It doesn’t feel right putting ourself completely into the hands of someone else, but whose hands is God asking us to put ourselves into? Bloody hands with nail holes.