November 12, 2008

The Hurt That Heals

2008 1531 page25 capHE MOST FRUSTRATING PART OF MY TOOTH EXTRACTION AT THE dentist’s office last Monday was when I blindly tried to find a different song on my iPod and inadvertently shut it off. Replacing my chosen sound track was a high-pitched drill and the snipping of scissors cutting into my fleshy gums.
I fumbled in vain to turn the device back on and get back to my playlist, but instead wound up playing a song I had never heard before, and didn’t even know was there. To make matters worse, I hated it. So I turned off the iPod again and patiently waited for the surgery to end.
After the procedure was complete, I made my way back to the lobby with a thick wad of gauze in my mouth and half my face numb. My wife grimaced when she saw me.
“Are you OK?”
2008 1531 page25“Orngf,” I replied eloquently.
Upon reaching home I tried to do some work with my laptop computer and field a few phone calls. E-mailing and sermon writing were fine, but phone chats were brief.
“Pastor Seth?”
“Maybe I’ll try again later.”
Between e-mails and writing, I went to the bathroom to change the gauze, praying each time the bleeding had stopped.
When the Novocain wore off and the pain in my jaw and tooth made my whole head ache, I sought relief from my pain meds. They made my head spin. But as I write this, my stitches have begun to dissolve and fall out.
When I reflect on injuries I’ve sustained, or medical procedures that require more than a Band-Aid, it always amazes me how much it hurts to heal. Sometimes the pain of recovery is worse than the initial medical issue. But in the end, when things heal up, it’s all worth it; and it is better than leaving the issue unchecked, which can worsen and make healing worse—or impossible.
In our walk with Christ, and in our life in the church, we face obstacles that are painful to deal with. Whether it’s settling a conflict between church members, making plans to change a church from being inward to outward focused, or making important commitments in areas of finance, education, marriage, or forgiveness—seeking healing and restoration can be painful. Ask anyone who has been to counseling or who has decided to give more to God, whether monetarily or in terms of mission service. In Matthew 24 Jesus listed an array of calamities that will befall Planet Earth before He comes and restores everything to the way it’s supposed to be.
Sometimes the prospect of pain can be so intimidating we just let our lives and our churches coast along and avoid doing anything significant. But that’s not how God would have it.
When Paul wrote of enduring hardships he asserted: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, KJV). Ellen White wrote: “The great purpose that constrained Paul to press forward in the face of hardship and difficulty should lead every Christian worker to consecrate himself wholly to God’s service” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 484).
This month I challenge you to seek the healing and restoration you need, and trust God to lead you through those circumstances that intimidate you, that make you vulnerable, that threaten to cause you pain. Our Savior is full of love and mercy; and He will give you the strength to endure all things, including the hurt that leads to healing. 
Seth Pierce pastors in Omaha, Nebrasksa, and is the author of “What We Believe for Teens, Published by the Pacific Press Publishing Association.