The Cost of Discipleship was one of those books that deeply influenced Betty and gave her courage in her darkest days. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German theologian, wrote it in the 1930s to examine the intense struggle and serious implications of true belief in Christ. In the decades that followed, he was active in resisting the rise of Nazis in Germany, and in rejecting the Fuhrer as head of the Church. Jesus, not Adolf Hitler was the head. Just a few weeks before the end of the war, Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Nazis in Flossenburg prison camp by direct order from Hitler. Eric Metaxas’ biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, retells Bonhoeffer’s final moments, which had been witnessed and shared years later by the camp doctor:
Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climber the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so submissively to the will of God.
In this most famous of his books, young Bonhoeffer wrote:
But Jesus is no draughtsman of political blueprints, he is the one who vanquished evil through suffering… The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. Once again, Jesus calls those who follow him to share his passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching and passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives? On the cross Jesus fulfilled the law he himself established and thus graciously keeps his disciples in the fellowship of his suffering. The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil.
Years later, influenced by Bonhoeffer’s words, Betty wrote the following, which is recounted in The Hidden Life Awakened:
If we can see our suffering as sharing, in a small way, in Christ’s passion—His willingness to surrender in trust to that which He was called to live—we too will be graced with the strength to embrace it and learn from it.
The way of trust lies through Gethsemane and Holy Saturday. We move from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, omitting Holy Saturday—the tomb. Every phase of our Lord’s life and every aspect of His death speaks to us, if we will open to it. Divine obedience was lived out at the Last Supper, accepted at Gethsemane, accomplished on the cross, and perfected alone in the darkness of the tomb.