I wonder whether I am alone in thinking that being in church can sometimes be likened to having teeth pulled? Or even just living the Christian life is a pleasurable as having a root canal operation?
Am I feeling sorry for myself? Am I just going through a tough “desert” experience? – well, no.
I was reading and meditating about Jesus’ words
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Mt 11:28
As we come to Jesus in humble submission and obedience he sets to, to transform us into his “coheirs”, into his “brothers and sisters”, into those people chosen to rule and reign with Him. He makes us holy, expressions of himself, people of love, joy, peace… He does this, not because of who we are but because of who He is. We do not deserve this treatment, this transformation but God chooses to do this for us. And so we enter his REST, the apostle Paul likens it to a Sabbath rest (Heb 4) a day on which no work is to be done. Our striving is over, God is the one who does the work in us (Phil 2:13).
And yet as I read further I come across these passages that say “make every effort”, “be diligent”, “strive”, “let us labour”… and I question what has happened to our sabbath rest. And this brings me back to the dentist…
Let’s be honest, who really likes going to the dentist? And yet it’s here that I find an expression of what is sometimes going on in my Christian life. I have to make an effort to get myself to the dentist. I know I need to go, either for prevention or for cure. It is not something that fills me with joy!
“Take a seat” says my friendly dentist with a big smile. And the seat is comfortable, a recliner, what luxury… it’s more comfortable than my sofa at home… But I’m not too relaxed, fearful of the pain that might be only a few seconds away. What do I have to do? Nothing really and yet I have to “make every effort” to stay in that chair and not run for the door at the first opportunity.
Church and the Christian life can be uncomfortable and even painful at times. The treatment, however, skillfully carried out by our divine surgeon results in a life closer to the image of Jesus. And so we strive to stay in that place where God can operate on us, a place where we are humble and teachable, a place of forgiving others and loving our enemies, of caring for the outcast, feeding the hungry and comforting those who suffer.
Most of the time I enjoy gatherings with other believers, but when, for whatever reason I consider it to be a painful ordeal I just think of the perfect smile that God is creating for me so I can better show His joy in my life.