So, I went to the dentist yesterday for some teeth cleaning.
And it hurt..really bad.
You might think I’m being dramatic, but I’ve gone through years of braces, teeth pulls, cavities, and lip numbing so I know pain from the dentist, and I really don’t think any of those things hurt as bad as today did. To be honest I actually really like going to the dentist so I was kind of upset at how painful it was. But it was no fault of the dentist, herself, she was doing her job and she did a great job, my teeth are very shiny now. But it still hurt!
The reason it hurt so bad yesterday was because I had plaque built up over my teeth and gums. Gross, I know, but it is what it is. Before yesterday I hadn’t had a teeth cleaning in probably two years (double gross) so it makes sense why the build up was there. Sure my orthodontist cleaned my teeth regularly and I brush my teeth pretty vigorously twice a day, but no one had gone in and actually scraped away the plaque that had calloused its way in.
- I didn’t recognize this on my own at first, but the dentist trip actually felt like what I’m living out right now. I haven’t had a large amount of struggle recently, but it has been enough to wear me down and weigh on my heart, aka, the build up.
As she was cleaning and as I thought about my life and some of the things that have been happening (or not happening) and how I have been feeling over the past couple of months, a comforting idea from God came to me.
In the midst of the trials I have been trying to pursue God, but haven’t felt like He has heard me. I have felt lonely, like, “God can’t you see what I’m going through? Don’t you hear me?” To say the least, I have not liked this season. So in order to “feel better” and just get by, I’ve been doing some “daily teeth brushing”–kind of going through the motions of Christianity to clean me up for the day–but I know now that that can’t clean up the gunk on my heart. I need a deep cleanse.
The interesting thing about this season is that I still know, deep down, the truth that God does hear me and He will answer me. It’s just a weird feeling to have when you know wholeheartedly that God is faithful, but don’t know when He is going to answer. Like I’ve written and read so many times, His timing is always perfect–absolutely perfect–but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough to trust sometimes. All I know is that when you’re in the hard the times, the story on the other side, after the hardship, is always powerful. The hand of God working in your life allows you to help other people who are struggling while you live strengthened.
So that is what I have hoped for over the past couple of months–the other side of the story.
But what God revealed to me was that sometimes, often times, it takes some pain in this season in order for Him to completely clean our hearts so that we’re ready for that other side. You see, I’m realizing that I have some “build up” over my heart; build up that is causing anxiety and doubts, and I need to get with the (capital-D) Dentist, aka God, in order to be cleansed. I don’t know where this gunk came from or when I allowed it to wedge itself between me and God, but it is there. And God hit me with the truth about it in that dentist chair. It wasn’t an audible voice but He told me, “I know you are looking for the other side of this story. I know you are looking for relief. But we need to walk through this pain right now in order for you to understand the divide that is between us. When you come out of this you will walk more powerfully and joyfully on the other side, but first let me clean you up.” This is me coming to you honest and open, admitting that in this sense, I’m not clean right now, but man do I want to be! I want to walk with God and His power every day! But first, I need to get scraped up a bit. I’ve got to endure through this time so that my faith will be mighty. I need to allow room for God to just cleanse me. That’s it. Just cleanse me. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
–Let me step away real quick to talk about eternity. If you do not have Christ in your life then these trials will never be overcome, not even after death, because hell will be pain that we have never experienced. Jesus is the only one to have ever conquered death and He is the only true source of eternal salvation. The world might tell you that money or power is going to bring you the most satisfaction in life, but it always leads to emptiness without Christ. If you do not know Jesus personally then let me help you out: I might not know you but God does and He is waiting with open arms for you to come home to Him. But because God is perfect and humanity is sinful we cannot come to Him without a sacrifice to cover our sins. That sacrifice is Jesus, and because He died on the cross in our place, we now have access to the Heavenly Father, the Creator of all things. If you do not know that you are going to Heaven for eternity when you die, then please make the decision to follow Jesus today. Without Him, there is zero hope for tomorrow. It takes declaring from your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead to be saved. That’s it. And then our joy is to follow Christ’s example every day.–
As I was pondering my life, it also made me think about everyone that I know who is walking through hard struggles of their own, probably some of you guys reading this right now, and I realized how much we all need to hear and be reminded of His truth. God isn’t out to punish His children, but sometimes we need correction in order to be healed. And I think that almost all of the time this correction is going to be painful for us. Sometimes, just like the dentist was scraping away at my teeth, it takes a lot of scraping by God at the gunk that’s covering our heart in order for us to be healthy and shining. Those times hurt and it seems like they last much longer than we want them too. Whether it’s learning to trust God through a season of loss, or trying to break a sinful habit and continuing to slip back, or feeling lost in the motions, these times test us. But they make us stronger, healthier, and more equipped to stand up to this big, dark world.
Havilah Cunnington in her book, “The Naked Truth About Sexuality”, writes, “Looking a little further, the word steadfast is the Hebrew word niphal which means to be firm, stable, established; securely determined and enduring. It’s as if David’s saying, ‘In this time of restoration, I pray that you would help me to continue polishing this part of me; that I would have an endurance that would last me thorough this season, until your perfect work is complete within me.’ Of course, this doesn’t usually happen immediately. Although we can be touched by God with miraculous and instantaneous power, the process of healing and renewal is exactly that: a process. Practically speaking, if you’re dull, it will take some time to get you looking shiny again. Remember, we’ve been given the perfect Spirit of Jesus which makes us spiritually spotless and clean, but the rest of us still needs some TLC. When we accept that Jesus paid for it all, we can get to work and live from the inside out.”
It’s going to take some time to be cleaned and shined, but that’s the only way to become the men and women we are called to live as, it’s the only way to be truly healed. As Christians we are called to become like Christ but there is no way to be like Christ other than to be molded like Him. Our nature is sin and His nature is love and purity. Those things don’t match. But if we want to be like Him, and we should as Christians (Christ followers), then we must be tested, tried, and crafted to be pure. The hard times give us strength as we reflect on them in the joyful times because we know how far we’ve come. The testing of our faith produces endurance.
James 1:12. Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He promised to those who love Him.
endure the trials.
receive the crown.
Psalm 73:26– My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.
God is the strength of our heart, so when your heart loses hope, trust in the God who molded it together while you were being formed.
I hope that you look back at some of the hard times that you have gone through and see how God has moved. And as you walk through more trials in the future I pray that you remain faith-filled and encouraged because God loves you and wants what is best for you, and He will never ever leave you, that’s a promise I am willing to make.
stay encouraged, friends.