When we are in pain, we want relief. When something hurts, physically, we seek medication. We want an anesthetic to numb the pain. In the pharmaceutical world, there are good medicines and bad ones – good numbing agents and harmful ones.
When I was 18, I sprained my ankle playing baseball in the yard with my brother. It was a sweltering summer afternoon in Georgia, and I was bare-foot. To take my mind off the pain in my ankle, I had a brilliant idea: I limped out onto the hot pavement and stood barefoot on the roasting asphalt. I did stop thinking about my ankle pain… but now I had a new problem, and the initial issue still had not been dealt with!
Jesus wants to meet you in your place of pain, failure, disappointment – so that He can deal with it and heal you there.
In John 21, Jesus confronts Peter at his most sensitive point of pain, at his most tender place of failure. Just a few nights before, on the night Jesus was arrested, Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times in a row. Now Jesus asks him, three times, if Peter loves Him. Peter is obviously hurt by Jesus’ repetition. After the third time, Peter – now wounded by Jesus’ questions – responds, “Lord, You know everything – You know I love You!”
It seems almost cruel. Cruel that Jesus would go to Peter’s very point of pain and address him there. Cruel that Jesus would insist that the beginning of Peter’s healing should start at the point of his greatest failure. But is it cruel?
Is it cruel? Is it cruel when the oncologist cuts away a cancerous melanoma from your skin? Is it cruel when a surgeon slices through your abdominal wall to remove an infected appendix? Is it cruel when the dentist wrenches a rotten tooth from your tender gums?
I can almost hear Peter’s heart pleading: “Did you have to go there, Jesus?! To that spot? Why!?” We often say the same sort of things when God begins to work on us:
- “You know how painful my singleness is to me, God – why did You have to go there?!”
- “You know how much pain I feel in relationship to my Dad – did You really have to go there!?”
- “You know how badly my last boss crushed my spirit, my passion for this work – did You really have to bring that up, God?!”
Surgeons actually hurt people, if you really think about what they are doing in the operating room: they cut, they injure, they wound people. Once the surgeon is done with you, you need stitches and medication and therapy!
But why? Why does the surgeon put you through this trauma? Because it’s for our own good. They have to. They must cut, in order to remove an infection, or correct a problem, or replace something that has stopped working. The injuries and wounds they cause to us in the operating room are going to bring about greater long-term healing and wholeness in our bodies after they are done.
Feeling hurt by God, we often question Him: “Did You really have to go there of all places, Lord? To that issue, to that scar, to that failure, to that tragedy, to that disappointment?”
And God’s response to us – from His Fatherly heart of love, wisdom, and mercy toward us, His beloved children – is:
- Yes. I want to heal you. (Job 5:17-18)
- I want to restore you. (John 21:15-17)
- I want to set you free. (John 8:32,36)
- I want you to be My co-worker. (Ephesians 2:10)
- And I want you to bring the same comfort to others that I have brought to you. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)