What We Need to Know
Imagine you are a middle aged woman living in Holland on the brink of World War II. Each day, the radio brings news of yet another series a catastrophic political events. Uncertainty is the air people breathe, fear the pillow on which they wake and drift off to sleep on. The world seems as if it is at last unraveling and the predictions, dreams, and guarantees of what lie ahead causes everyone’s stomach to turn.
There is potential that your nephew and niece could be killed for resisting tyrannical leaders. Your father is too old to survive an arrest should it occur, and your sister, whom you love more than any other person, is running headlong into the effort against the evil, putting herself right in harms way.
Horror. Chaos. Sorrow. That’s what seems to lay ahead for Betsie ten Boom.
She doesn’t panic though. She doesn’t hide underneath the watch shop counter and weep for fear of what may come. She cooks meals, she smiles, she makes tea, she folds laundry, she keeps going on with life as the changes swirl around her. She’s not coping with Netflix binges, or alcohol, or fluffy novels, or social media or food. There’s one simple truth that every atom of her body is clinging to that brings a peace and joy–dare we even suggest a happiness–that surpasses all human understanding.
“If God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me to know that He knows about them. That’s why He shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hand.”
Betsie is aware, well aware, that this life is not devoid of hardship or “bad times.” She is embracing the fact that there may be worse times ahead than she–or the world–has ever experienced. For the unbeliever that alone is enough to send one into frantic fear and panic, but not for God’s beloved.
After admitting that bad times are likely, she leaves the possibility where it belongs: in the knowledge of the God who loves her. It’s enough for her to simply know that He knows, that whatever may come is in His hands. No harm will touch her without His good purposes behind it, no sorrow will stain her without His tender hands wiping every tear, no deep waters will be traversed without the One who walks on water right beside her.
She doesn’t read articles for human answers. She reads the Scriptures for holy promises. She doesn’t look to models or statistics for a peace on which to sleep at night. She looks to the One who holds the stars in place for quietness in her soul.
There are times in our lives when we live with an artificial peace. We look peaceful on the outside because our circumstances do not require much courage of us, but deep down in our souls there is little rest in the perfect wisdom and sovereignty of our Heavenly Father.
The truth comes out though when we walk through dark waters, and the “peace” we once knew seems to vanish. In the many responses to suffering in the world you’ll find that most of them involve frantic actions and continual worry. The root of this is simple: the world doesn’t know the One who holds it all, but we do. Yet still, we respond so often as though we don’t know Him. We panic and fret because we’ve forgotten to remember who it is we are held fast by.
God is our Father…
In the book of Matthew chapter 7, Jesus is preaching arguably the most famous sermon in all of history. He touches on topics such as anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, how we ought to treat our enemies, caring for the needy, how to pray, fasting, treasures, and then He lands on the topic of anxiousness. His remedy is quite simple: don’t be anxious. He could’ve left it at that, simply giving us a command, but He doesn’t. He explains to us why we need not be anxious about anything. He says, “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?” (Matthew 7:26)
The birds are beautiful, yes, but they are not God’s children. Still, He cares for them. He sees to it that their needs are met, they are fed, and they can live. How silly would it be for a loving Father to care for birds but forget His own children’s needs? God is our Father and He loves us. If He forgets not the birds, He will not forget us, His own sons and daughters.
God is our wise Father…
It is wonderful to consider God as our Father, but if we only dwell on His fatherly love for us, we will still not find enough ground on which to stand unwavering in times of suffering or trial. Our own fathers loved us, yet still were unable to make perfect decisions for our good because they lacked perfect wisdom. We must hold God’s fatherly love for us with His perfect wisdom.
He is not like men and His perfect wisdom transcends even the wisest of fathers. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome we read, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable His ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?’ Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid?’ For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” (Romans 11:33-36)
This God, who made all things, who’s wisdom is unsearchable and plumbs depths we can only begin to imagine, is our Father. Our perfect, wise, Father in whom all things are kept. But still, there is more, for what good are love and wisdom where there is no ability to act out on them?
God is our sovereign, wise, Father…
If we’re honest, sometimes the sovereignty of God can make us squirm in our seats. The idea of someone having complete power and authority makes us nervous because our limited human perspectives can only really imagine what one of us would do if we possessed such qualities. But our hearts, our intentions, our interpretations, our feelings, are tainted by sin, and God is not. He is holy and perfect and His will equally so.
Scripture tells us very clearly in many passages that God is indeed sovereign. Ephesians 1:11 summarizes it well, “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.”
He works all things to the counsel of His will. Now, taking this truth, let us remember that sovereignty is not His only attribute. We just recalled how He is our loving Father, perfect in wisdom, and now we pair it with His complete sovereignty over all things. Tessa Thompson, in her book Laughing at the Days to Come, writes of God’s sovereignty, “When we humbly embrace this truth and then take it a step further by uniting it with the reality of our adoption into the household of God, His sovereignty over life’s suffering becomes a sweet refuge–not a power from which we run, but a promise in which we rest.”
This too is in His hands…
The God who calls us His own is a loving, perfect, wise, sovereign Father who can and does “work all things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When we remember this, we can be like Betsie and carry on with life no matter what dark waters we find ourselves in or that may lie around the bend. We can be fearless, content, and at peace because while there is very little we know about our future or those of the ones we love, we know who does know, and because of who He is, it’s enough for us to leave it all with Him.
Suffering and trials are not an “if” they are a “when” and with the knowledge that our heavenly Father holds all things in His hand, we can confidently say that even then, we are held fast, we are safe, and we are loved.
Betsie didn’t know what was ahead when she said those words to her sister, Corrie. But we look back and can see what was to be her destiny. She was arrested for assisting her sister in the rescue of Jews under persecution from the Nazi regime. She was beaten, sent to prison, and there she died in a concentration camp infirmary. Her sister said goodbye to her through a window. No final hug, no hand holding as she slipped into eternity. But the dark circumstances around her could not thwart the hands of her Father as He drew her from this passing world of pain into the glory of His home. What greater good could have been found at the end of her suffering?
While in the concentration camp not long before she went to heaven, Betsie told Corrie, “we must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”
To the very end, Betsie clung to the truth of who her Father was. He was loving, wise, sovereign, and enough. Even for life and death in a Nazi concentration camp. Her dying wish was for you to know that, for me to know that, for us to hold tightly to the promise that no matter what we face now or may face in the days ahead, all of it is in His hands. If we are tempted to respond like the world in fear and panic, let us not look to another press conference, model, or statistic for answers about what lies around the bend. Let us look to our God, let us search His Scriptures for the truth about who He is, and then we really will be okay. We will be at peace, not because we know what is coming, but because we know the One who does know.
And that’s enough. To know that He knows.