Puppies, People, and Struggles

We went puppy shopping this weekend. Knowing how these adorable fur balls tempt me, I did a little research to protect me from an emotional decision I might live to regret. I discovered a puppy temperament assessment test. Part of the test checks the degree of dominance or submissiveness by holding the pup on his back for 30 seconds. A puppy that continues to struggle and never settles under your hand tends to be dominant and may bite under stress. One that struggles and then relaxes will be more flexible and able to handle stress well. No struggle may indicate insecurity.

This test reminded me of different human responses to pain or disappointment. Some never let go and continue to struggle against old wrongs their whole lives. Under stress they too may “bite.” Others glibly gloss over pain without thought, remaining caught in shallow faith. Those who benefit the most from being penned down resist the wrong, hate the bad, and yet surrender to God’s sovereignty.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Striving appears to be part of the process of growing in faith since we must learn to stop it. “Cease striving” comes from the Greek word raphah which means: to sink, relax, abate.1 It is natural to struggle against things we don’t want and can’t stop. But unending struggle hinders faith.

On the other hand, to passively accept everything with an unthinking “Praise the Lord” seems more flippant than trusting. Randy Alcorn wrote, “The faith that can’t be shaken is the faith that has been shaken.”2 Pretending that my faith has not been touched deters growth.

Mary and Martha brought their confusion to Jesus when Lazarus died. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32 NASB). Jesus promised Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He wept with Mary and gave them both a miracle. Expressing their confusion to Jesus helped them cease striving and know God—Jesus—as not just the promised Christ, but LIFE.

How can we know God, His wisdom, and His comfort if we don’t allow ourselves to mourn, question, or feel indignation and disappointment? I discover God as I work through my confusion, not when I pretend it isn’t there. I am still trying to find the balance, but when I go to Him in my struggles He reminds me He is still on the throne. On my back I look up, see His hand, and let go. I now know by experience that He is God.

What has you pinned on your back? Share your struggles with God so you can cease striving and know He is God.

On a personal note, our yellow lab turns 14 Sunday.  Above is a picture of her and our new eight week old wonder-pup, Maximus.


1 Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for raphah (Strong’s 7503)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 26 Nov 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=H7503&t=NASB >

2 Randy Alcorn, Author of If God Is Good, Ministry director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, www.epm.org, www.epm.org/blog

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  1. Pat

    Thanks so much for your thoughts today. I will have to read it again and again to digest it. Truly God speaks through you. Love in Him, Pat

  2. CJ

    Great devotional Debbie (as usual) and great photo!

  3. Jane Wolfe

    That is the cutest puppy I have ever seen. I really did not take you seriously when you said you had puppy fever. Next time I will. Great analogy and I will use that one as I try to submit to the stress and maybe I will stop biting:)

  4. Carol Hoal

    Well, the picture made me want a puppy! The analogy made me rest in the Lord and conscious of how I must always be aware of “biting” when under stress. Thanks, Debbie!

  5. Ralph Smith

    Again, thank you.

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