Kidney stones. If you’ve ever had them, you know the full scope of these two words. If you haven’t, they merely represent a painful condition you’ve heard about but can’t relate to.
I was in the second camp most of my life, until one summer afternoon when I was personally introduced to kidney stones. The tales I had heard about this condition were understated.
I was talking with a neighbor when I experienced a sudden charlie-horse-like pain in my back and, within minutes, it progressed to other symptoms that sent me to the ER. Hours later I was discharged with medication and a recommendation to see a urologist. Within six weeks, two additional attacks occurred; the last resulting in a surgical procedure, which I happily agreed to.
The follow-up visit with the surgeon came with a positive report … and a restricted diet. He wrote it down, so I wouldn’t forget. No beef. (I can do that.) No soda. (No problem). No pizza. (I don’t eat much pizza anyway.) No spinach. (No brainer.) No strawberries. (I can sacrifice them.) No nuts. (Wait, nuts are filled with protein. They are good for me. I like them!) No caffeine in any form ~ including chocolate! (No way!) By now I was convinced my chart had been switched with someone else’s. I smiled politely and approached the question as if it was an afterthought. “None of these foods, ever?” “An occasional treat,” he responded compassionately. “But make sure you are drinking lots of of water.” The child-like interpreter in my brain immediately envisioned brownies and hot chocolate followed by six glasses of water. The thought was overruled only by recalling the intensity of kidney stone pain.
It’s a funny thing about pain. Time fades the way we remember it. The further away we get from an experience, the easier it becomes to dismiss it. That can be a double-edged sword. Good from the standpoint of not dwelling on it and bad from the perspective of forgetting what caused the pain in the first place. What is true in practicing disciplines designed to prevent physical affliction is also true in preventing much of the adversity that comes to us in life.
Out of His love and compassion, The Great Physician has given comprehensive instructions in the way we are to live, but the selfish interpreter within us doesn’t like truth that includes some restrictions. Since we want what we can’t have, we justify our refusal to heed His warnings and indulge in things that can hurt us. Oh, they don’t come immediately, but they do come ultimately and the intensity of suffering they bring is far more debilitating than we ever imagined.
It holds true for us as individuals and as a nation. At one time, America revered God and His Word was our standard. We didn’t always apply it perfectly, but we knew why we needed to and sought to stay on track. That produced a healthy virtue that resulted in true liberty at home and extended abroad. Slowly that health was taken for granted and we began to indulge in life apart from that Scripted by God. No consequences were visible at first, but disease has been developing within us and, unless we seek healing, the pain will reach excruciating proportions. We cannot just wait it out. 2 Chronicles 7:14 makes it clear that we are to be proactive in that which brings about healing. “If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
God’s people have been saved, not to rest easy, but to live out the truth in love, whether it is received or ridiculed. We are called to care enough about the lost and dying and the condition of not only our nation, but the world around us, that we are willing to share the life-giving balm of the Gospel. Without it, suffering is eminent. With it, life is guaranteed.
Whether our souls are facing emergency surgery on an individual or national scale, Jesus Christ offers full restoration. But we can’t re-write His Script. Yes, there may be some things He will instruct us to eliminate, but in the long run, the benefits will far outweigh the adjustments ,,, and that’s a blessing that can’t match all the chocolate in the world!