“The devil always overplays his hand.”
I can still hear Henry Bosch, founder of Our Daily Bread, say those words. His eyes would brighten and a smile would come to his face as he talked about the upside of a difficult day.
What Did Henry Mean?
Even though Henry wasn’t a card player, I know he was speaking from experience when he talked about playing cards with the devil. From childhood, Henry faced many physical problems. Over and over he showed us how to use the “cards of misfortune” to beat the devil at his own game. Crippled by disease as a boy, Henry wore the resulting limp as a badge of courage. Although doctors didn’t expect him to survive his early years, Henry went on to surprise everyone by living to the age of 80. Most important, his weaknesses became the life experience by which he comforted and encouraged the countless readers of Our Daily Bread.
Throughout his life, Henry battled illness, emotional pain, and spiritual concern for hurting family and friends. Yet in his weakness, he found the strength of God. His co-workers would see him arrive at the office impeccably groomed even after a sleepless night. When he was most weary, Henry would meet the day with a pressed suit, white shirt, and tie—and fresh resolve to rise to the challenge. The pain that could have made him prayerless and cynical seemed to make him better rather than bitter.
What Did We Learn from Him?
Like all of us, Henry had his faults. Some of us felt that he talked too much about all that he had learned along the way. But time adds perspective. Years after his homegoing, it’s easier to see that Henry talked out of the overflow of his response to pain and grace. Because of what he discovered through difficulty, he could relate to the suffering of others. With words of encouragement, letters of comfort, and acts of kindness, Henry related to all kinds of pain and all kinds of people.
Henry started conversations wherever he went. He would plant himself on his strong leg to tell anyone who would listen what his Lord had done for him. Then in 1956, Henry convinced his friend Dr. M. R. De Haan to offer a daily devotional booklet to the listeners of the weekly Radio Bible Class. He turned his weaknesses and problems into spiritual influence that continues to multiply with each new page of Our Daily Bread.
What Was the Source of Henry’s Wisdom?
Henry wasn’t just talking from experience when he said, “I’ve found that the devil always overplays his hand.” He was expressing the wisdom of the apostle James who wrote, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
But what did James mean? Why would he say that Satan would run from us if we resisted him? Is the devil afraid of us? The answer is yes. The devil will run in fear if he finds us running into the arms of our God.
James inserted his “resist the devil” statement between “Submit to God” and “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” The implication is strong. In other words, turn the devil’s tactics to your advantage by using them as opportunities to go to your knees—and to your God.
This is the wisdom James also talked about in his first chapter: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (1:2-5).
The devil’s purposes are known. With his demon army he is trying to drive a wedge between us and our God. Every skirmish he wins can leave us temporarily discouraged and distanced—not only from the goodness of God, but from one another as well. He loves to see us bitter, resentful, and lacking in spiritual confidence.
But heaven’s purposes are also known. As rebel forces use “land, air, and sea” to try to break us down, our Lord uses those same problems to build us up (James 1:2-5). Troubles and fears that give us reason to draw near to God are troubles and fears that eventually deepen and strengthen us.
When we respond to problems by turning to God, we are a direct threat to the enemy’s purposes. It’s no wonder he runs the other direction.
How Will We Play Our Hand?
Henry Bosch’s life illustrates the benefits of playing off the moves of the enemy. His on-going influence shows how much the devil has to lose when we use suffering to become more of what he hates and fears.
I’m not trying to idealize Henry. But along with my co-workers, I saw the way he lived his life and loved his God. I have no doubt that in the middle of Henry’s pain, the demons of darkness heard prayers and songs in the night that made them run in defeat.
Thank You, Lord, not only for Henry, but for all of the other men and women You have used to show us how to counter the moves of our enemy. By their example they have helped us to remember that You are infinitely wiser than our accuser. Please give us the grace and good sense today to follow their example. Help us to use our problems—wherever they come from—as occasions to draw nearer to You. —Mart De Haan