Pastor's Pen: Of gratitude and the ways of Providence

Rev. Mike Dunn

Rev. Mike Dunn

I wasn’t very thankful when the day started but something happened — something I can only attribute to the mysteries of Providence — that changed my perspective. Not only did it make me thankful to God but it gave me insights into the depths of His concerns for us here in this broken world.

It was the spring of 1981. I was still a young Christian at that point, living in south Jersey and working as a corrections officer for the Cape May County Sheriff’s Department.

On this particular morning, I had an infected tooth joint and was in a lot of pain. It was a carryover from a few days before when I had a molar pulled. The dentist, a young guy who had recently started his own practice in North Cape May, had some difficulty and needed to apply some torque to finally remove all the roots.

I’m not one to get squeamish and frankly the experience didn’t bother me too much. I was just glad to have the molar out of there. It was finally extracted and I didn’t think anything else about it ... until the evening of the following day. I had gone swimming at an indoor community pool on that Saturday and perhaps that’s what caused the infection. I’ll never know.

For whatever the reason, the tooth joint became infected and it was very painful. The dentist had given me a prescription for Tylenol 3 but I hadn’t filled it because I didn’t realize I would need it.

I had a rough night and prayed the kinds of prayers you pray in those situations, asking God for His help in the midst of these unpleasant circumstances. I got up Sunday morning and attended church, as usual, at the North Cape May Assembly of God. I was still in a lot of pain and planned to stop by a pharmacy after the service to see if I could get the prescription filled.

I probably asked the church to pray for me that morning. I don’t recall. I did stop at the pharmacy after church but was told I would need to wait until Monday to have the prescription filled.

Then something strange happened.

I returned to the car in the parking lot and prepared to drive back to where I was living at the time. Before I left, I felt an inclination to go to the small supermarket next to the pharmacy and purchase a gallon of milk.

At first I ignored it. I wasn’t in the mood to go into a store and there was still a little bit of milk left at the house.

The feeling would not go away, however. It was so insistent, in fact, that I shut the car off and went into the store.

I looked for the aisle where the milk was sold and went there quickly, wanting to get this simple task completed. As I was reaching for the milk, though, I heard a voice nearby calling my name. I turned around and, much to my shock, the dentist was walking toward me!

He remembered me from the office visit and asked how I was doing. He told me he had been thinking about me in the aftermath of the molar extraction and wondering if I was OK.

I told him I was in pain and thought the tooth joint was infected. Even though it was a Sunday, he said to go straight to his office.
He followed me there, opened the office just for me that Sunday afternoon, and worked on me for about a half hour. Whatever he did — as I recall, he placed some kind of compact in the tooth joint — worked amazingly well because the pain went away and did not return.

It was an incredible relief.

But the most remarkable part of this incident was still to come.

“Doc,” I told him afterward, “the really odd thing is today was the first time I was ever in that supermarket.”
I’ll never forget the look of surprise the dentist gave me.

“You know,” he replied, “that’s the first time I was ever in that store, too.”

Some might say what happened was pure coincidence but I know differently; it was God revealing His love to a young Christian just beginning a long journey of faith.

I learned a valuable lesson about His faithfulness that day.

God doesn’t always provide speedy remedies like He did for me in the spring of 1981, but I’ve also learned through the years something even more valuable: He is always there walking with me through whatever storm or valley or challenge or trial life might bring. And He is faithful to always gives me the strength to persevere when He doesn't provide a speedy resolution. And He always honors His promise in Romans 8:28 to cause all things to work together for good.

After nearly 44 years of walking with the Savior and striving to serve Him, I can testify to that.

And I’m very, very grateful.

Rev. Mike Dunn is pastor of the South Evart Free Methodist Church