In a recent sermon, my pastor told of a frantic phone call he received from his mother several years ago. "Peter, you must come home right away!" she said. His elderly father had been knocked out, badly cut, and relieved of thousands of dollars. He was lying in critical condition in a local hospital. Peter caught the next plane home and congratulated the men who did the deed.

"You see," he explained, "they were cardiac specialists. By operating so quickly after his heart attack, they saved my father's life."

Last summer I too had an encounter with masked men bearing scalpels. A surgeon operated on my foot, not my heart, and my life was never in danger. Yet the horizontal recovery time did give me a chance to reflect on pain that we choose voluntarily, sometimes for our own good and sometimes to our peril.

While rehabilitating, I often did exercises that hurt because I knew that working through the soreness would allow my foot to regain its usefulness. On the other hand, the surgeon warned against bicycling, mountain climbing, running, and other activities that might endanger the healing process. Basically, anything that sounded fun, he vetoed.

On one visit I tried to talk him into granting me a premature golf match. "Some friends get together once a year. It's important to me. I've been practicing my swing, and if I use only my upper body, and keep my legs and hips very still, could I join them?"

Without a flicker of hesitation my doctor replied, "It would make me very unhappy if you played golf within the next two months."

"I thought you were a golfer," I said, appealing to his sympathies.

"I am. That's how I know you can't swing without rolling that foot inward and putting weight on the parts that are trying to heal."

Later, I ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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