Steve’s Devotional – Lessons from Pain
FEBRUARY 4, 2019
Of all the dogs that have lived with our family, Quincy (“The Wonder Dog”), one of our German shepherds, was the most loving. His love for us was almost human.
Both of his hips were malformed, he had an overbite that prevented him from eating properly, and he had some other serious internal problems. Quincy had a hip operation in the first year of his life, and it was very painful. He was with the vet (an experience that, before the operation, had been rather pleasant for him) for about four days, and during that entire time, Quincy was in incredible pain.
When we went to pick up Quincy, I was afraid his attitude might have changed toward me. After all, I took him to the vet and was, at least indirectly, responsible for all this pain. If I had been Quincy, I probably would have been angry at the one who made me go through something that hurt me so much. And remember, as a dog, Quincy didn’t know that the pain was necessary for his healing. All he knew was that it hurt—a lot. Even before the operation, every time Quincy put any weight on that hip, he would whine. He could barely walk, and when he did, it was with great anguish. And so, with some hesitancy, we went to get Quincy from the vet.
Quincy looked horrible.
He had lost weight. The two places where the surgery was performed (his hip and stomach) were shaved. He was obviously tired and looked far older than his ten months. But do you know what he did when he saw us? He started wagging his tail. He pulled at the leash held by the vet just so he could get to us. And when we got home, he came over and put his head in my lap—my lap! I couldn’t believe it, but oh, how I enjoyed it. I petted him for a while and then gently pushed him away. He limped to the middle of the living room, turned around, and came back to me, once again putting his head in my lap.
Teacher and theologian Dr. Barnhouse once said that all of life illustrates Bible doctrine. As I was scratching Quincy behind the ears, I prayed, “Lord, make me like Quincy. I know you never hurt me without cause. I know you can’t always explain why you do the things you do, but you repeatedly demonstrate your love for me. Teach me to come to you the way this dog has come to me. Teach me to trust you and love you when it hurts, even when I don’t know why I hurt.”
God’s love for us really is the only constant in a changing world.
One of the elders in the church I pastored told me after a communion and prayer service, where the elders anointed people who asked with oil and prayed for their particular needs, “I never knew there was so much pain and so many problems in our congregation.” I think the same thing whenever I pray through our weekly Key Life prayer list. I never knew there was so much pain. There is, you know. Saint Teresa once said, “Lord, you would have more friends if you treated the ones you had a little better.”
Pain. Even when we’re doing everything right.
When we hear from the great number of hurting people, I want to tell them that everything is going to be okay. But for some of them it isn’t going to be okay, or at least it isn’t going to be very soon. Sometimes I am tempted to say to them that they aren’t exercising the proper biblical principles, or if I were especially manipulative, that if they would send a large contribution as an “act of faith,” God would stop their pain and make their problems go away. Biblical integrity, however, simply won’t allow that. If the perfect Son of God had to die on a cross, we must assume that crosses are a part of a fallen world, even when we’re doing everything right.
Of course, God answers prayer. And yes, he changes circumstances, heals hurts, and makes things better. That’s a part of our message. But sometimes the Christian faith is nothing more than keeping on keeping on, and trusting that God knows what he’s doing and believing he does it “right well.” Sometimes you have to tell people that when God doesn’t remove the pressure, his love grants the power to endure the pressure. Sometimes you have to just trust.
Job cried out in his suffering, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15). I have a banner my wife, Anna, made me years ago that reads, “My Father, I don’t understand Thee but I trust Thee.”
And so we will keep telling people to go to the Father. We will keep speaking of his love, even when that love sometimes isn’t apparent to those who hear the message. We will keep pointing to the Lord as the only One worthy of absolute trust. Someone has to face the pain and the hurt without giving out clichés. Someone has to point to God as the only resource of the believer.
Dogs don’t need a lot of teaching. They naturally trust their master’s love. Human beings are not always that smart. That’s why God has given us one another—to remind one another of his love.
Go put your head in the Father’s lap. You’ll be surprised by his gentleness and his love, and after a while, he will take the pain away and make you well.
You can learn a lot from a dog.
Time to Draw Away
Read Psalm 91 & Matthew 11:28-30
How is God at work in you through pain right now? Can you bring yourself to accept the Father’s love…to put your head in his lap? When you do, you’ll find care, support, rest and unconditional love. The Father holds you gently in the palm of his loving hand and envelops you in his strong arms.