Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love. – Eric Liddell
People often think of Eric Liddell with Vangelis’s glorious ‘Chariots of Fire’ theme playing in the back of their mind. But in my opinion, the classic hymn ‘Be Still My Soul’ should accompany Liddell’s memory. The melancholy tune was one of his favorites and the lyrics define him—for me, at least.
Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side
Many people would point to Eric Liddell’s triumph at the 1931 Olympics as proof God was on his side. Liddell refused to run on a Sunday. Because of this, he had to race at a distance of 400 meters—a length he had little experience with. Still, he won.
But what about his time in a Japanese internment camp? Liddell believed even in the middle of those horrible circumstances, God was on his side. That was the way he lived, with absolute trust in God. Because he didn’t worry about whether God was on his side, he could focus on helping others in the camp.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
While in the Japanese camp (‘Weishien’), Eric Liddell took part in the camp’s ‘Sports Day’ — even as the tumor in his brain grew (unknown to him) and movement become more painful. Sports Day lifted the internees’ spirits from the muck and mire they’d grown accustomed to. Liddell’s race was always the highlight of the day. He fought through his discomfort, weariness, and pain to avoid disappointing his fellow prisoners.
Leave to thy God to order and provide
Before the Japanese internship, Liddell and his family worked as missionaries in China for the London Missionary Society. They often made capricious demands on their missionaries in China (and in other parts of the world). Liddell endured those demands, trusting God would work things out for His glory. Liddell often went for long stretches without seeing his wife and two daughters. He had to entrust them to God’s care.
In every change, He faithful will remain
I can’t stress enough how much Liddell believed this. It must have torn his heart out to send his pregnant wife and two daughters to Canada while he stayed in China. Liddell never wavered from his purpose to bring hope and light to those around him. He knew God never wavered, never changed, and was always faithful.
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend; Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
The London Missionary Society made it impossible for Liddell to leave China with his family. The Japanese sent him to Weishien. He died of a brain tumor there in 1945 (only a short time before the Americans liberated the camp). Liddell left behind a loving wife and three children, one of whom he never met. He spent his last days on earth in a harsh Japanese camp. A joyful end?
At Weishien, Liddell spread comfort and peace, working to the internees’ lives better. He was a symbol of calm hope when hope was a rarer commodity than bread. I wouldn’t say it was a good thing they brought him to Weishien. But he made many lives better and gentler through his own example. Those imprisoned with him left no doubt of that as they retold stories of the camp. Liddell knew he had a purpose in Weishien, a purpose he worked hard to fulfill.
His last words were “It’s complete surrender.” He had reached his joyful end.
When people speak of heroes like Eric Liddell, they often say “he/she inspired thousands around the world.” I don’t know about the thousands. But Eric Liddell, in his gentleness, his stillness, his compassion, inspired me.
And I’ll never forget him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eva-Joy Schonhaar is an aspiring author who has written several novels and hopes to be published some day soon. She’s a Christian fangirl who drinks insane amounts of coffee, thinks that chocolate chip cookies solve pretty much everything, and always uses the Oxford Comma. In her spare time she can be found geeking out over superheroes and reading The Hunger Games for the millionth time.