When my oldest child was eleven, we noticed she had developed a small cavity in a baby tooth, perhaps the result of a brief but thorough period of sugar banditry from the pantry. As this was a baby tooth and causing no discomfort, the dentist advised that we take no measures other than waiting for the loss of the tooth.
Over a year’s time, this small cavity became a cavernous hole, a shell of bone with a troublesome hollow inside that was prone to collect seeds and bits of every snack or meal. As a result my daughter began eating on only one side of her mouth for months on end, since that little tooth clung to her mouth like an unwelcome barnacle. The wayward tooth was finally lost after more than a year, and afterwards my daughter tentatively began to eat with the neglected side of her mouth.
Now, we do not tend to think of jaw muscles needing development like the focused effort required in the development of six pack abs, but my daughter found that it was difficult to chew, and her jaw muscles hurt because the muscles had atrophied through disuse.
Parenting and life provide ample metaphors for training the soul.
I considered my daughter’s difficulty, need, and pain in the light of how we might respond in other situations. We might petition in prayer, “Lord, please strengthen her jaw and remove her pain according to your goodness and mercy.”
Or perhaps we might apply oil to her jaw and pray for healing in Jesus’s holy name. Could we find scriptures related to strength and healing and say these over her? Yes, we could perform all these worthy actions, and they would not be wrong, but the Lord had already provided all that was needed.
For her jaw to become strong and without pain, she must stop eating on only one side of her mouth, depending on her own limited strength. Instead, she must follow God’s plan for personal responsibility and development by exercising the other side. In this action, the object of her faith would be realized.
Faith without Works
Faith without works is dead. One could say my daughter’s willingness to chew food with a weakened side of her mouth demonstrated her faith that her jaw would be whole again.
Or, she could continue to do what was easy, refuse to develop and strengthen God’s provision, and then blame God for not answering prayer, or perhaps simply decide that a strong jaw was not His will.
In actuality, though, our action is required to release the potential of what God has already generously given.
Miracles still happen, though oftentimes there is a preparation time that makes way for miracles (Prepare the way for the Lord). However, God’s usual way of provision is through natural means that must go through a period of growth and development. It is as if the Lord has given us seeds, and we look at the package in puzzlement, wondering why God did not answer our prayers for vegetables.
Everything develops naturally at its own pace, in its own time, if given the right variables for growth. From muscles and teeth, to character traits and talents, these gifts are realized with use.