Sophie Scholl was an ordinary girl: she grew up in a normal family, got an education, struggled to make sense of a torn-up world, and nurtured hopes and dreams in her heart. But there was more to her story. In the early 1940’s, she became a part of the White Rose, an anti-Nazi activist group that her older brother had co-founded. He had been insistent that she not know about the work, but once in confidence of the knowledge she was insistent that she would join.
The Nazis were baffled, angered, and intent on abolishing this “huge” undercover organization that was massively infiltrating Germany. They were oblivious to the handful of twenty-somethings right beneath their noses who were covertly responsible for the whole resistance themselves.
That was until on February 18, 1943 when discovery and arrest put an end to the secret operation. The executions that took place on February 22, 1943 put an end to her life. The legacy Sophie’s twenty-one years was one of heartfelt sacrifice and courageous dedication to principle.
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
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Tragic stories of courage and unflinching dedication are heart-wrenching and incredibly inspiring. Heroes, as we think of them, appear to live in a world far beyond the scope of our own three meals a day, our struggle to get up with the alarm clock, our hours of work or home responsibilities, and our coffee with friends. And so, I sometimes wonder what it is that turns ordinary people into the stories of sacrifice and courage.
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Before Sophie risked her life and died for it, she wrote these meaningful words in her journal:
“I want to share the sufferings of these days.
Sympathy becomes hollow if one feels no pain.”
It’s easy to wonder what situations and emotions I can share in suffering as if the opportunities are limited. I forget too easily that we live in a world that is bearing up under the curse of sin; even creation is groaning for the day of redemption. Some eras of history are perhaps more difficult or horrific than others, but every day is filled with people’s who heartache and pain is too difficult for them to bear alone.
With my church family this week, we were challenged to intentionally take the opportunities God has given us to share the joys and sorrows of others, in imitation of the way Jesus lives. Jesus did not shrink from pain. He didn’t shrink from understanding it, from interacting with people who were experiencing it, or from bearing it Himself.
Whatever life may hold, there is incredible value in being a person who will share in sufferings with others. God calls us to it–that very fact alone ought to be tremendous motivation.
“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
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Do you see a connection between that journal entry and the way Sophie’s life ended when she was only twenty-one? That simple journal entry is the mindset of sacrifice and courage which ultimately exemplified itself in a huge way at the end of her life. In Sophie’s story we can glimpse again that big things start with a humble heart attitude. While we are tempted to want to do the brilliant things, we are most wise to seek out the selfless things.
Through compassion and humility, we are available for the Lord’s work–in imitation of Christ.