You Can’t Always Get…


Or so the 70’s song says, and it’s certainly true. Part of growing up is being willing to accept this simple fact.

However, as Bob Dylan said in Chronicles, it’s not always a good thing to get what we want. But I’m not going there with this blog.

My question is: What if we don’t get what we don’t want?


We don’t always want (or even know) what’s best for us. We just had Pidi brought back to Puerto to have his foot operated on. You may remember, he has this horrible mass on the sole of his foot. It’s melanoma, which is a very dangerous type of cancer. The foot is causing him tremendous pain, but to eliminate the pain and to try to prolong his life, he needs to have the foot amputated at the ankle. He had agreed to this and so Arturo brought him to Puerto to have the operation he needed.

But when Pidi got here, he refused to have the operation. He said he just wanted the bulge of the growth shaved off and “he’d be fine.” Well, no, he would not be “fine.” That would not solve the problem or even eliminate his pain. Plus the cancer would grow right back, while very likely finding other places in his body to take up residence. Plus, the doctor said that simply cutting off the growth would leave a wide gap with no skin to cover. It would not heal, as there was nothing to close the gaping wound.

But Pidi was adamant. Communication with him is difficult since he is almost completely deaf. The situation was compounded by the fact that he is very much a simple “upriver” Palawano who is not at all used to being in town, or having crowds of people around, etc. After a few hours in the city he’s ready to flee.

We talked to him. Arturo talked to him. The doctor talked to him. All to no avail. 

On top of it all, he was getting angry and abusive toward Arturo, threatening to hit him. He yanked his IVs out twice and said he only wanted medicine he could swallow.

He kept insisting on his “solution” which would not really meet his need. And he kept on refusing the very thing which would help him and possibly save his life. He’d rather have the pain and die with his foot than give up the foot or even part of it.

We felt really bad for Pidi, but the doctor told us that ethically, in good conscience, he could not amputate without prior permission from the patient.

We could not force Pidi to accept the remedy he so badly needed.

Sadly, we had to give up and send him home as he insisted.

When I was thinking on this later, it struck me: this is just like so many people when you share the gospel with them. You know they need this message. It is the remedy to their greatest need. But they refuse. They suggest other creatively inadequate “solutions” for being right with God, or they don’t even acknowledge that it matters what God thinks. Often, they also get angry with the messengers, those who are trying their best to help them. Just like Pidi.

And you can’t force them to repent and accept the offer of salvation.

The Lord Jesus even gave an analogy that involved the amputation of a foot. Remember? He said that if your sin or anything is holding you back from coming to God on God’s terms, even a hand or foot, cut it off! If it’s an eye, gouge it out! It’s better to enter (eternal) life having given up something you held dear than to perish. What good is it to “gain the whole world” (or keep your foot) if you perish in the end?

No, you can’t always get what you want. But unlike the rest of that song’s lyrics, you sure can’t always make people accept “what they need.

Following another train of thought here, this experience was quite an epiphany for me. Here I was, spending some time in the halls of the Provincial Hospital, while we are translating Luke. The juxtaposition really hit me…

The province of Palawan has grown so much in population, the Provincial Hospital is much too small. There aren’t enough rooms. There aren’t even enough multi-bed wards. Most of the patients are lying on cots in the hallway, their IV bottle hanging on a nail in the wall. The hospital is understaffed and unable to provide much care.

Walking down that hallway was one of the most depressing things I’ve done in quite a while. So much sadness and hopelessness as people lay there in pain, some obviously dying. Waiting for surgery, perhaps. Waiting in pain. Waiting and hoping they will get well. Waiting…. 

Then my mind shifted to the gospel of Luke. The Lord Jesus strolled around healing everyone of all their diseases. Even congenital conditions and deformities. All of it. Huge crowds followed him everywhere. I imagined him walking up that Provincial hospital hallway, touching this one’s forehead, clasping another’s hand, speaking a word to a child… and as he passed on, each of those hopeless patients leaping to their feet, well and strong and shouting praises to God in his wake.

Wow! It’s not like I didn’t know all this, but it really hit me what it must have actually been like. And why those crowds followed him to the point that they were stepping all over each other to get to him. They weren’t just waiting… they knew there was hope. There was power. If the Lord came to Puerto today, soon people from every part of this island would be here causing traffic jams trying to follow him around. Hoping to touch him, to see him, to catch his eye.

So on the one hand, we cannot instantly heal all the sickness on Palawan. We can’t even force people like Pidi to let the doctors do their best to help them.

Neither can we force everyone to accept the gospel.

But we can give them a chance to hear. We can offer them hope. And we can give them God’s Word with its narratives of Christ’s life and they can read of his power and his loving touch. And they would learn of his ultimate gift to them…

…his very life. Given so they might have life.

So that’s what we’re doing here. That’s why others partner with us in this ministry.

And maybe some of them will indeed “get what they need,” after all. And once they do, they will realize it was actually what they had wanted all along.

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About billdavisthoughts

From San Diego, CA. I've been a missionary and Bible translator in the Philippines for over 30 years and have travelled as a language learning consultant to 15 countries. I play piano and guitar. I write, read voraciously and love to work on word puzzles. Married for 35 years, we have two daughters and two grandchildren.
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