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3 hopeful truths in the midst of suffering

One of my less exciting Christmas gifts to myself this year was a sparkly new crown on one of my upper molars. It began in October with a simple cleaning that led to the discovery of a small cavity. It wasn’t bothering me in the least, but I decided to go ahead and get the work done as preventative maintenance. Midway through the procedure, mouth numb and tooth drilled, the dentist looked at the tooth and my x-ray and gave me the bad news, “I think we need to do a root canal.”  

They whisked me out the regular dentist chair and led me to a different room. Another needle was inserted, drilling commenced, and I was given a foam wedge to bite on to make it easier to keep my mouth open for the next two hours. The loud, high-pitched drill screamed, my lips cracked with dryness and at times I felt unable to breathe as water pooled at the back of my throat. Sounds fun, right?

In the midst of rather uncomfortable circumstances, I kept reminding myself of three truths:  

  1. The dentist working on me was competent and good
  2. The work he was doing was for my benefit and protection
  3. Eventually, I would be back at home and this would all be over

Mulling these thoughts over in my head brought peace in the midst of the discomfort. The greater reality of my momentary experience kept me from flailing wildly in my chair, fighting with the dentist, or trying to think of various escape plans (which I most certainly would have done had I not been sure of these three truths).

As I sat uncomfortably in the chair, I realized that these are the same principles that anchor my soul in the storms of life. Knowing that God is able and good, he actively works all things for my benefit and protection, and one day soon I will be safely home in heaven secures me in the midst of life’s painful trials.  

God is both able and good

Reflecting upon the goodness of God in the midst of trials helps us to bear them with courage. Knowing that everything that comes into my life flows from a loving, forgiving, gentle and compassionate Father changes my interpretation of my circumstances. God does not give me over to the whims of fortune or chance. He loves me so much that the very hairs of my head are numbered.  

My inability to see the entire scope of my life prevents me from knowing what is best for my soul. Waiting, suffering, trials and afflictions come at just the right season to prune me so that I may bear more fruit. When I focus on the pruning shears, I grow fearful, but when I focus on the One doing the pruning, I have renewed hope in the midst of suffering. Without this perspective, I am tempted to wrestle and fight with God, running from Him in my distress. However, the more I trust him, the more I come to him as a daughter, running into his arms for comfort. God loves me too much to leave me in sorrow, unless the trial must be for the betterment of my soul.

The work is for my benefit

When I went into the dentist that day, I was in no discomfort. I thought my teeth were in pretty good shape. However, underneath the surface, decay was causing problems that would eventually cause me pain. The dentist could see the underlying problems and worked for my good to restore the damage.

In similar fashion, God is always working to restore and redeem me from the sin that so easily entangles my soul and causes me to run my race weighted and weary. As Thomas Case wisely noted, “Behold, I show you a mystery: sin brought affliction into the world, and God makes affliction carry sin out of the world. God has never intended more good to his children than when he deals most severely with them.  He would rather fetch blood than lose a soul.” What grace is ours that God redeems affliction and fashions it for our good!

Soon I will be home

As I sat in the chair with various instruments in my mouth and unappealing sounds ringing in my ears, I closed my eyes and pictured being at home. I considered that soon this temporary discomfort would be over and I would be back at home, going about my day.  

In a similar way, afflictions teach us to long for our heavenly home. The longer we live and the more trials we endure, the greater our hope for our eternal dwelling. Losing faith in this world propels us to hope in the world to come. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 encourages us in the midst of suffering:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

May we have eyes to see the eternal glories that await and hearts to trust our gracious Heavenly Father.

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