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“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)”

I’d love to be able to say God freed me from all my fears, but that’s simply not the case. Recently, however, He did help free me from one deep-seated fear I’ve had for a decade.

In 2012, I had a series of nightmares involving the same thing: a dentist drilling on my teeth with no numbing medication or anesthesia. In one dream, the doctor was even using a literal DRILL (think Black and Decker) instead of a dentist’s drill. In these dreams, my teeth would start to bleed and break off, and then others would fall out until I had none left. I’ve had trouble with my teeth since I was a teenager, and suffered through many fillings and root canals, so by the time these nightmares came around, I was already leery of even going to the dentist.

I understand nobody likes going, but these dreams pushed me over some kind of emotional ledge, and my brain shut the door on dentists. That’s the only way I can think of to say it. My mind just finally said, “I’m never going back again.”

Recently, though, my wife, Laura, went to the dentist, also after not having went for a few years, and it was her bravery which made me finally realize I had to face my own fears and go back. I know this sounds so trivial to some, but you must understand, what I had built up in my head was some kind of phobia.

Fear of an every-day object or act seems silly to everyone except the one housing the fear.

Anyway, I could see dark spots on a small portion of my gums, as well as at least three teeth, and began to feel I’d waited too long. I’d convinced myself they’d have to pull all my teeth, and I’d have to wear dentures.

Now, for those who wear dentures, please don’t think I’m being rude or disrespectful. It’s just that I’ve talked to several people with false teeth, and they all tell me the same thing: “Do what you gotta do to save your teeth.” My Grandma Weddle used to tell me to take care of my eyes and my teeth, because I’d only ever get one pair of each.

“But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? (PSALM 56:3–4)”

I read that verse and sorta laughed. “It’s just TEETH,” I told myself. “What’s the dentist gonna do, KILL ME?” Ha. So I went, and after explaining why it’d been so long, he examined me and then delivered his report:

“We’ll have to do one root canal, and you have several cavities. There is one tooth in the back we may or may not be able to save, but other than that, the good news is you’re gonna get to keep your teeth.”

Wow, talk about a weight lifted off my shoulders. I could actually sleep that night, for the first time in a LONG time. Last Friday I completed part one of a two-part root canal, and took this picture of my “post-root canal smile,” right after the procedure, while still heavily under the influence of the numbing medication, as a funny reminder of my experience:

My post-root canal smile, with half my face completely numb.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

This is a small example of someone facing their fears, and I fully understand some of you are facing much bigger challenges, but I pray this seemingly minor-league victory will at least get you to thinking.

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

Fear will eat you alive if you let it. Dr. Mary D. Moller* (2017), associate professor, Pacific Lutheran University School of Nursing, and director of Psychiatric Services, Northwest Center for Integrated Health, summarized the possible outcomes of fear on our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Possible effects of chronic fear on our physical health include:

  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Endocrine system dysfunction
  • Autonomic nervous system alterations
  • Sleep/wake cycle disruption
  • Eating disorders

Possible effects of chronic fear on our emotional health include:

  • Dissociation from self
  • Unable to have loving feelings
  • Learned helplessness
  • Phobic anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Obsessive-compulsive thoughts

Possible effects of chronic fear on our emotional health include:

  • Bitterness/fear toward God or others
  • Confusion/disgust with God or religion
  • Loss of trust in God and/or clergy
  • Waiting for God to fix it (He sure didn’t fix my teeth!)
  • Despair related to perceived loss of spirituality

Remember, “Have no fear” is the goal. I think the Lord understands we’ll ALWAYS have fear, but the objective is to confront and overcome those fears, not be destroyed by them. I understand the thought of this is nerve-wracking; the very thought of facing deep-seated fear makes us sick to our stomach. When we conquer these fears, however, there is such a purging of mental, emotional and spiritual poison, I can’t even tell you. It’s like a cool shower after working outside in 102-degree heat all day.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — Jesus (Luke 14:27)

Blessings.

* Rosenberg, Jaime. “The Effects of Chronic Fear on a Person’s Health.” AJMC website. November 2017. https://www.ajmc.com/view/the-effects-of-chronic-fear-on-a-persons-health (Accessed May 9, 2022)

This entry was posted in Pain.
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