by Jeffery Kingry
Sentry Magazine, June 2000
Mark Twain once quipped, "If you find a shivering, starving dog, take him home to your hearth and make him prosperous, he will not bite you if you attempt to pick him up. This is the main difference between a man and a dog. "
Nothing hurts quite as much as a bite from a friend. One whom we trusted to "be there" in time of trouble, standing by to help. instead joins the enemy and attacks us in word and deed. God knows what that is like, "Even my close friend, in whom trusted. who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me" (Psalms 41:9). Indeed, we "crucify him afresh" upon the cross (Hebrews 6:6) when we sin. Yes, God knows the sick feeling of betrayal by those He thought better of.
Sometimes I get tired and discouraged. Unlike some among my brethren, I do not believe that to be a sinful state. Jesus was "a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). Life is a lot like licking honey off a thorn, not as easy as we might wish it to be. However, "joy comes with the morning" (Psalms 30:5). No night of struggle with our demons of depression is an ultimate match for the hope of faith ... if we can just survive till morning. However, the hardest burdens to bear are those which fall upon us when we are least able to bear them -- when we are weakest, most downtrodden.
"Now as for me, I said in my prosperity, 'I will never be moved'"(Psalms 30:7). God knows how it is with men, that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak ..." (Mark 14:38)? It is easy enough "in time of prosperity" to declare, "Not me, Lord! Even though the others may fall away I will not!... Even if I have to die, I will never forsake you" (Mark 14:29-31)! But good intentions and fervor in good times do not prepare us the Gethsemane or Golgotha. The Lord knows this.
Depression hurts. When you know you cannot depend upon your friends, that your brethren will most certainly let you down, that good people sleep on, ignorant of your pain, distracted by their own concerns while you agonize, the pain is real and intense. "My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and keep watch with me" (Mark 14:34).
We expect friends, when we have made a mess of things, not to discard us as though we had done a permanent job of it. A true friend feels what we feel. A friend will see us through when others think we are through. He understands even if he might not approve, for he has gone through the same process. The Lord knows this. "For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
"Being partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4) means more than merely having our doctrines straight. It is understanding - not a state achieved once by the intellect as one might come to realize a truth -- but a process (II Peter 1:5-8); a process of growth developed only by years of living by faith (I Peter 1:5).
God wants us to understand what it is like being God. He wants us to drink of His cup, and endure the immersion in suffering that He has endured (Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:38). The servant is not greater than the master. If Jesus learned obedience through the things which he suffered, shall we be exempt (Hebrews 5:8)? Do we wish to be treated as true sons and daughters of God. or bastards (Hebrews 12:8)?
The understanding found through endurance does not make the pain of betrayal and rejection go away. The lesson of the brass serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14; Numbers 21:9) is that the cure does not stop the pain, it just keeps the painful evil bite from being fatal.
No, we can count on a dog to be uncritically loyal and faithful. That is why he is called "Man's Best Friend." That is the major difference between a man and a dog.