“I am the patient, and God is the surgeon.”How difficult that is for us to remember. Once at the Bible School in Argentina where I was the director, I was called because a student had injured himself with a hammer. He was breaking up concrete and hit himself in the forehead. He was bleeding, so a bandage had been wrapped around his head, and he was putting pressure on it. I rushed him to the hospital. Standing in front of the admittance clerk, I will never forget the question she asked, “Which one of you is the patient?” It seemed apparent to us as the student held up his hand. The blood all over his face was a big clue, but not to this person. In the same way, we who have so many imperfections would naturally think I am the patient, and God is the surgeon, but how often do we forget.
When we look at the lives of Saul and David in the Old Testament, we see a study of contrast. Saul hardened his heart toward God while David opened his heart toward God. The surgery that God performed on David lasted many years, as he was being prepared to be king. God took things away from him the way a surgeon cuts away cancer so that the patient will live. Charles Swindoll, in the book David, lists five things that David lost in this process of being attacked by Saul. David lost his position, he lost his family, he lost his mentor, he lost his dear friend, and David lost his self-respect (1 Sam 19-21).
It was July 30, 1945, the war was a month from being over, and the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis was returning from a mission of delivering enriched uranium to allied forces in the Pacific. A Japanese sub sent a deadly torpedo into the cruiser sinking her in just 12 minutes, killing 300 of 1,200 men on board. The remaining 900 would have to survive in a shark-infested ocean under the brutal Pacific sun for four days and five nights without food and without water. Of the 900 that went into the water, only 316 survived the lack of water and the shark attacks and worst of all the hallucinations. The men saw incredible hallucinations, and it caught on like a plague. They dove into water to get on their ship that they saw sailing back into their lives. The chief medical officer, Haynes, recorded his own experience.
There was nothing I could do, nothing I do but give advice, bury the dead at sea and try to keep the men from drinking the water. When the hot sun came out, and we were in this crystal clear ocean, we were so thirsty. You couldn’t believe it wasn’t good enough to drink. I had a hard time convincing the men they shouldn’t drink it. The real young ones…you take away their hope, you take away their water and food, they would drink the salt water and they would go fast. I can remember striking them who were drinking the salt water to try to stop them. They would get dehydrated, then become maniacal. There were mass hallucinations. I was amazed how everyone would see the same thing. One man would see something, and then everyone else would see it. Even I fought the hallucinations off and on. Something always brought me back.[i]
We too have to
fight delusions of this world that tell us to drink of this world’s water.
David said, “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will
you love delusions and seek false gods?” (Ps 4:2). God is the only one who can
truly satisfy our longing soul. It took David many years of long trials to
learn that on God’s operating table, but he finally did get it. Listen to his
heart for God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for
you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:1-2).
[i] Stanton, Doug. In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors. Henry Holt and Co. Location 2275, Kindle Edition.