Whenever I travel outside my homeland of Canada, I always want to learn about the culture of the lands I visit. How do their lives differ from mine? How are they similar? What can they teach me about life? In what ways do I change as a result of observing and participating in customs unfamiliar to me?
I believe what impacted me most profoundly during our recent travels to Hong Kong and Japan is the prevalence of man’s striving to find something that satisfies and brings meaning to life. As I listened to our pastor’s message from Ecclesiastes 1 this morning, what was first a pervading impression suddenly became crystal clear. He said, “We all want our lives to count for something. We all have a fear of emptiness. It is human to yearn for meaning. Where do we go to find it?”
“Everything is wearisome beyond description,” Solomon said. “No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear we are not content…I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless – like chasing the wind.”[i]
C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”[ii]
Really, people halfway around the world are not so different than me in this matter. Perhaps the sheer volume of 7.4 million people in Hong Kong made the issue more palpable. Putting cultural idiosyncrasies aside, people search for meaning and purpose in wealth, entertainment, designer fashions, fitness, health remedies, material goods, gourmet food, the latest technological gadget, work and careers, membership in clubs and societies, religious icons and rites, educational prowess, social status, and pleasure. We all think, as our pastor commented, “If I just had one more…”
How do I keep from spending my entire life seeking for things which only satisfy temporarily? What will fill me with energy, passion, and a sense of purpose beyond what this world can supply? Where is my life rooted so when the challenges and pain of life surround me I am not shaken from my foundation?
Corrie Ten Boom was a woman who found the answers to these questions early in life. Born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1892, she was raised by loving parents whose strong faith in God introduced values and morals that would shape and guide Corrie’s life. If you know her story, it is most likely through her book, The Hiding Place, or the movie by the same title. Perhaps lesser known are her works, Tramp for the Lord and In My Father’s House. As an older teen and young adult, I read these books and saw the movie and was spellbound by her gripping story.
Briefly, Corrie and some of her family were arrested during World War II for assisting and hiding Jews and their supporters. They spent months in prison and concentration camps. Only Corrie survived to tell their story. Up until her death in 1983, she faithfully shared her testimony of God’s faithfulness with millions across the globe. Once filled with hatred for the Nazi guards who treated them so cruelly, she told of how God’s love became stronger in her life than hate. It was what enabled her to eventually forgive them, even face-to-face. (check out this link as well as other YouTube videos with her)
While we were away, I began re-reading In My Father’s House because I wanted to share with you how this woman’s incredible life has influenced mine. Thirty some years have passed since that first reading, and I was struck this time with some of the similarities between Corrie’s life and mine in our first fifty years of life. That’s about how old she was when arrested. There most of the similarities end as I am grateful I have not had to endure the persecution and atrocities that she documents. What I want to focus on are her growing up years, how her family’s “open house” principle guided their daily life, and how God led her into a ministry that was purposeful and brought meaning to her life.
But, that will have to wait for another week! I leave you with a quote from the forward of Corrie’s book, In My Father’s House (also from The Hiding Place),
“Today I know that memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.”[iii]
Until next time,