"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: . . . and a time to heal" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3b).

The pain in my daughter's palm was first apparent while practicing her piano lesson for school one day. A small discoloration and swelling was visible, but they seemed insignificant against the healthy flesh. As time went on, however, I observed the difficulty my daughter had while holding her pencil during schoolwork. I applied my own home remedies to help with the discomfort, but they brought little change. Eventually, a cyst was diagnosed by a specialist, and surgery was scheduled to remove it.

The night before her surgery, my daughter and I got home late after spending the evening roller skating with a group of homeschooling families. As I came to say goodnight, I looked at her hand one last time, since she had fallen and bumped her hand while skating. Amazingly, a crack had appeared in the swelling. Gently pulling the skin apart, I could just see the tip of something. Grabbing my tweezers and a flashlight, I proceeded to do "surgery." I stared in amazement as the cyst turned out to be an inch-long cactus thorn.

The incorrect diagnosis of my daughter's pain made me realize that we also misdiagnose the emotional problems in people's lives. Many times we fail to address the deeper issues of why a person is acting a certain way and simply respond to their outward displays of unloving behavior. Perhaps if we saw their problem through the eyes of the Great Physician, we would know how to help their healing process. Christ's actions illustrate this best when He didn't debate or argue with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:7-26. Instead, He saw into her heart and addressed the pain of her failed relationships with men and the need she had to be forgiven and loved.

Is there a prickly person God has placed in your life? You know, one of those people who can't be pleased no matter what you do. The behavior he is displaying could be the result of many hidden, painful experiences. Instead of reacting negatively or avoiding him, respond in love. If you ask the Lord for wisdom to see into his true problems, He will show you the loving surgery that may help heal his pain.

Father, please help me to love the unlovely people You've put into my life. Give me understanding to see the real thorn that is causing their pain and the desire to reach out with Your love. In Jesus' name, Amen.