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Root Canals And Other Fun Things

Dear Friends,

This morning I had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth. As I pulled into the parking lot at his office I couldn’t help but notice the sign hanging over the front door that said, “We offer pain-free dentistry!”. I had to chuckle because, no matter what I’m seeing the dentist for, it always involves some level of pain - even if it’s just financial! However, it seems my dentist has discovered something about people that’s been true pretty much since the beginning of time: people want to avoid pain. It’s true in our physical lives, in our work, in our relationships - and even in our spiritual lives.

It’s a mindset I certainly understand, as I’m never eager to go through any type of pain. But what I’ve learned over the years is that, when we live life with the goal of avoiding pain, we end up with a fairly shallow and unsubstantial life. That’s because pain often has a beneficial purpose that we don’t initially realize. A simple example of what I’m talking about would be something like “hunger pangs”. The pain we feel when our stomach is empty reminds us that it’s time to eat - it’s time to fuel our bodies so that they can continue to function in a healthy way. If we ignore hunger pangs completely, we will slowly but surely starve ourselves to death. So in that example, the “pain” of feeling hungry is a good thing.

What is true on a physical level is true for us spiritually as well. The emotional pain that comes into our lives can serve a beneficial purpose because it reminds us of our need for God. In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis reinforces this idea when he writes that pain “removes the veil and plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.” God uses pain for our good; through adversity we can learn eternal truths that we may not otherwise learn. The popular 80‘s slogan sums it up well: “No pain, no gain!”

So, while we shouldn’t go through life seeking out pain, we also shouldn’t go through life doing all we can to avoid it. With all of that in mind, let’s stop and ask God to help us look at the difficult things in our lives differently. Let’s ask Him to show us how He might be using the pain we’re experiencing to teach us His truth, and to show us more of who He is. And as we do so, let’s hold on to the reality of God’s promise to His children who were going through a time of great difficulty in Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”




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