Unbearable Pain

by Paul Briggs

It had been building for quite some time, certainly for well over a month. A subtle increasing sense of pressure. Nothing I couldn’t live with, mind you. Then one day the pressure became a dull pain. I could live with that, as well. But it began to concern me. So I reached out for help.

I gave in and called the dentist. He got me right in. Sat me down in the chair, you know the drill. (Certainly, an erroneous word choice when talking about all things dentistry!) He took a couple of x-rays, but couldn’t see anything obvious. He tapped on the row of teeth in the vicinity of where I was feeling the pain. No obvious culprit. Having found nothing, the dentist sent me home advising me to let him know if I encountered further issues.

Several days later I was awakened in the middle of the night with a greater sense of pain than I had previously experienced. I reasoned with myself that I had just been to the dentist and he hadn’t found anything. Besides, it was a Saturday night and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to call the dentist until Monday. “Stop being a wimp, just take a few over the counter painkillers and get back to sleep!” The painkillers finally had their desired effect and sleep took over. I repeated this experience for several nights until the pain became so great that I began to get desperate as I contemplated living with pain like this long-term. Eating and drinking were no longer pleasurable. My sleep pattern was erratic at best. It felt like half of my head was falling off much of the time.

The first thing the next morning I called my dentist. I asked him: “If this was your tooth, what would you be doing?” He told me that he would call the endodontist (dentist specialized in dealing with the soft inner tissue of the teeth). He told me to tell them I had a “hot tooth.” I didn’t waste any time, the call was made immediately and I was told they didn’t have any openings until the following month. I pleaded with the receptionist telling her that I couldn’t wait that long! She asked me to wait while she went to talk to the endodontist. When she came back to the phone, she asked if I could come in that afternoon. I told her I would do anything to be there at that time and thanked her for working me into the schedule that day.

The endodontist repeated the procedure of sitting me in the chair, x-raying the teeth in the vicinity of the pain and then tapping on those same teeth. This time, however, I nearly hit the ceiling when he tapped on a particular tooth. He asked me if I was ready to do a root canal. I told him that I was ready to do anything that would get me beyond the pain this tooth was causing me. I wanted to be able to sleep again. I wanted to have the ability to enjoy eating again. I wanted to enjoy my coffee in the morning! I didn’t want to have to think so hard about the “little things” of life to avoid the pain they were causing me. Thankfully, when the drill (this time quite literally!) was over I walked out of his office feeling much better than I had when I entered it!

As I reflected on my recent tooth drama, I realized how the progression (digression might be the better word for it!) of my thinking was similar to how we, as humans, often deal with “the sin that so easily besets us” (Hebrews 12:1). Rather than “setting it aside” as we are exhorted to do, our initial reaction might be to barely notice it, moving to the point of being able to put up with it until it moves to the point of making us so miserable that we can’t bear it anymore.

It is no wonder then that the writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers:

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

Vigilance (“See to it that…”) in the life of the believer is commanded. Recognizing and receiving the grace of God is essential (this happens by faith). Recognizing and uprooting the “root of bitterness” (which has SO many potential sources) is imperative for a thriving and maturing walk with God.

  • The initial stages of sin must be recognized and acknowledged, NOT put off or ignored.
  • There must be a ZERO tolerance policy employed regarding the effects of sin. There must be NO willingness to just “buck up and live with it.”
  • The root cause of the symptoms of sin must be sought out and eradicated BEFORE the trouble is caused.

Don’t do with sin what I did with my tooth….wait until the pain becomes unbearable to seek help to find the root cause and deal with it!