The Secret Of Happiness

In 1943, Japanese occupation forces ordered hundreds of American and European “enemy nationals” to an internment camp in China’s Shantung Province. They had to endure months of boredom, frustration, overcrowding, and fear.

Personalities clashed, tempers flared. The two groups thrown into sharpest relief were the businessmen and the missionaries—they held each other in strictest contempt. Petty squabbles multiplied.

But one man seemed able to span the gap between these two groups, a man described by an internee as “without a doubt the person most in demand and most respected and loved in camp”—Eric Liddell, a missionary from Scotland.

A Russian prostitute in camp would later recall that Liddell was the only man who’d ever done anything for her without wanting to be repaid in kind. When she first came into camp, alone and snubbed, he put up some shelves for her.

Another internee recalled, “He had a gentle, humorous way of soothing ruffled tempers.”

At one angry meeting of the internees, everybody was demanding that someone else do something about the restless teenagers who were getting into trouble. Liddell came up with a solution. He organized sports, crafts, and classes for the kids, and began spending his evenings with them.

Liddell had won fame and glory at the 1924 Olympics, taking a gold medal in the 400 meters race. But in that cramped, wearying compound, he showed himself a winner in the Christian race as well, earning the admiration of the most worldly internees.

What made him so special? You could have discovered his secret at 6 a.m. each morning. That’s when he tiptoed quietly past sleeping companions, settled down at a Chinese table, and lit a small lamp to illuminate his notebook and Bible. Eric Liddell sought grace and strength each day in the riches of God’s Word.