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If God Sees When a Sparrow Falls Does He Notice When a Tooth Hurts?

by Bob Russell

Bob Russell1(Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org)

“If any of those wisdom teeth ever give you a problem, we’re going to pull all four of them at once.” The late Dr. Bryant, my dentist forty years ago, would make that sobering comment almost every time I went to him for a check- up. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he would add, “You know why we insist on pulling them all at once? It’s because if we took just one out you won’t ever want us to do it again!”

Occasionally one of my wisdom teeth would flare up a little, but with Dr. Bryant’s solemn warning in my memory, it was never quite bad enough to resort to oral surgery. Until recently that is.

Several weeks ago Dr. Carl Kuhl, my dentist for the past twenty years, looked at my latest x rays and mumbled, “Oh, no!” Now that’s not the phrase you want to hear at the dentist’s office. But he added, “You’ve quickly developed a serious cavity in your lower back tooth right next to that wisdom tooth that never came in.”

He examined the x ray more closely and concluded, “Yep. We’ve got some work to do here. First, we’ll pull that wisdom tooth and then probably have to do a root canal on the one that’s decayed.” I’ve experienced very few dental problems over the years but I’d heard bad reports about both of those procedures, and that’s not what I wanted to hear.

I consulted with an oral surgeon, Dr. Steve Cherry who, like Dr. Kuhl, is a long-time member of Southeast Christian Church where I’d ministered for years. The first thing Dr. Cherry said was, “I’ve been praying about your situation almost all night.” Now, I appreciate people praying for me, but that’s not exactly what I wanted to hear from the oral surgeon who was about to perform what I assumed was a routine tooth extraction.

Steve said, “Dr. Kuhl and I have both examined your x rays more closely and we have a real concern. Your facial nerves run unusually close to that wisdom tooth and we’re very concerned that pulling it could leave the left side of your face paralyzed and possibly even numb your tongue.               We want you to go downtown to the U.L. Dental School and have a cat-scan that will be clearer and more conclusive”.

A few days later after the more detailed xrays were examined, I was told, “This is a worst-case scenario. There is definitely a very real danger of severing those nerves.” So this past week I had minor oral surgery, removing the bad tooth but leaving the wisdom tooth in place. As of this writing I’m doing very well and hoping that the wisdom tooth doesn’t flare up.

The point of this long, probably boring dental history is this: What if I would have had problems 25 years ago and Dr. Bryant would have responded by pulling all four of my wisdom teeth? Today’s detailed cat scans weren’t available then. Would I have lost the ability to speak clearly at that point and then missed out on the privilege of preaching the past 25 years?

That’s a sobering question and I don’t know the answer. But it makes me wonder again about the providence of God. One of the questions we frequently ask is, “Why doesn’t God prevent bad things from happening to us?” That’s a tough question because He certainly doesn’t prevent all tragedies and many are a whole lot worse than a preacher with slurred speech. But I wonder if He actually does prevent a lot of terrible things from happening that we’re not even aware of. And He gets no credit for it.

  1. Wallace Hamilton used to tell about a mother cat, with a baby kitten in her mouth, trying unsuccessfully to get across a busy New York City intersection. She would meander timidly out into the traffic and then dart back to the curb when nearly hit by a passing car. A traffic policeman in the center of the intersection, seeing her plight, thrust up his hands to stop traffic in both directions. The anxious cat scampered across to the other side and disappeared down an alley.

Hamilton pointed out that the cat had no idea that the authority of the New York City Police Department had been called upon to enable her to get safely across the street. Then he added, “I wonder how many times the mighty hand of God goes up to get us safely to where He wants us to be and we’re not even aware of it.

Jude 24 speaks of God as the One, “…who is able to keep you from stumbling.” Solomon promises that God, “…directs our paths” (Prov. 3:6). Jesus said the Heavenly Father cares even when a sparrow falls and we are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt. 10:29)

I hope one day in heaven we’ll have the capacity to look back over our lives and see how many times the strong arm of God went up to protect us from harm and we were totally oblivious to it. Then, instead of being angry at Him for the occasions He didn’t exempt us from suffering, we’ll be able to thank Him for the numerous times He actually kept us from falling…or unwittingly pulling a tooth and losing the ability to preach.


Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.

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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13