I have decided that eating popcorn is the dental equivalent to Russian roulette. You just never know when you’re going to encounter an unpopped kernel that could do damage to your pearly whites. Unfortunately, I recently had just such a run-in and the kernel won, shearing off the corner of a tooth.


Of course, I immediately called the dentist to explain my malady, asking for the earliest possible appointment. I was hoping for something that afternoon or possibly the next morning. She offered me, “two weeks from Thursday.” I said, “You must not have understood, I broke my tooth.” She replied, “Oh, in that case I can offer you …“two weeks from Thursday.”


Thankfully, I was able to get in on a cancellation and found myself lying on the dental chair with the little bib chained around my neck and the curved light overhead. If you’ve ever been to the dentist before you know the drill, so to speak. The dentist decided I needed to be numbed before doing the work, so out came the needle. She said I’d feel a little pinch. She lied. It felt like she was driving a spike between my cheek and gum. But, it was effective and my tongue, cheek and lip were soon hanging uselessly from the bones of my jaw.


For some reason, this is the moment the dentist decided to ask me questions. “So, where are you a pastor?” “Uh, Paffway Chuuch,” I said, as the drool ran down my chin. Obviously convinced that the Novocain was working, she stopped the questions and started sticking torturous instruments in my mouth.


While I was lying there wishing I had waited for two weeks from Thursday, I actually started wondering if there was something to be learned from this experience. Most of the things that came to my mind had to do with never returning to the dentist. Eventually, after the whirring of the drill stopped, the numbness wore off and I could once again keep my saliva in my mouth, it occurred to me that we all have life experiences that parallel a visit to the dentist.


The dentist that day was putting me through pain — and seemed to be enjoying it, I might add. But, the pain was a necessary experience on the path to better health. The condition of the tooth was such that left unattended, it would have rotted, caused even greater pain and probably brought an infection that could have spread. It was the repair, through the accompanying pain, that allowed for the best possible outcome.


In our spiritual lives, there also is going to be inevitable pain. We live in a fallen world and it happens. It is never fun to face, but it has a purpose. God takes the pain in our lives and uses it to bring greater health. In fact, it typically leads us to new heights we couldn’t have achieved apart from the struggle. That is true if we lean on God to help us through the hardship. In that regard, the Apostle Paul knew the power of pain and said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).


— Pastor Jeff