His small hands were balled up in tightly clenched fists, causing his pudgy little fingers to redden with tension. His right thumb was carefully hidden under knuckles and skin, which formed an airtight, impenetrable seal. Between bouts of heaving sobs his whole body shook with anxiety, his chest convulsing in staccato rhythm with each belabored breath.
His face was almost unrecognizable in its grimace of wretched pain and fear at the ordeal before him. My nephew Isaac had a splinter lodged in the meat of his right thumb, and in his four-year-old mind, there was no way anything or anyone was going to get within miles of attempting to remove it from his flesh.
My sister, Rebekah, and I sat in frustration on the bathroom floor, surrounding Isaac in his near-hyperventilating state. We told him that the splinter must come out or else it could get infected, that he would be worse off than before if we ignored it. No matter how much we tried to explain it to him, he could not reconcile logic with his assumption that this surgery would be excruciating. All he could think about was the gleam of light shining from the silver tweezers in my sister's hand, poised and ready to strike.
Isaac was soon having a full-fledged meltdown. I had never seen such unbridled terror, such unchecked irrational fear in a person before. To him, taking out this splinter was tantamount to chopping off his thumb entirely.
"Just put a Band-aid on it!" he pleaded. "It will heal!" he tried to convince us.
Right there in my nephew's innocent and honest reply was a statement so illustrative of the human condition. How often do we just wish problems would go away by themselves? How often do we simply cover up a matter, hoping that by ignoring it long enough, it will suddenly disappear?
So often we allow issues in our personal and spiritual lives to fester for so long that, like an ignored speck of wood under our skin that might have taken seconds to remove, the problem soon becomes an ugly infection that takes weeks, months or maybe years to heal.
A Man After God's Own Heart
David was no stranger to the temptation to ignore a glaring sin in his own life. After having committed adultery with Bathsheba and getting her pregnant, David had her husband, Uriah, killed in battle and then quickly married her in order to cover up the indecency.
David tried to put a Band-aid on his own sin, fooling himself into thinking that it would be hidden from Israel and from God's view and would simply go away. What started with David lusting after Bathsheba quickly festered into a monumental problem that affected not only his household but all of Israel.
It wasn't until the prophet Nathan came to him and revealed the unwelcome truth of his offense that he was obliged to judge himself and his own actions.
The immediate consequences of his sin, because he did not deal with it directly, were great and would indeed be painful. "The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife" (2 Samuel 12:10).
David and Bathsheba's son would also die as a result of this not-so-hidden sin, because David's poor example as the anointed of the Lord was giving other nations reason to scoff at God (2 Samuel 12:14).
What followed is one of the greatest examples of heartfelt repentance and the humbling of oneself recorded in the Bible. After Nathan delivered the news to David of what must take place as a consequence of his sin, David was immediately cut to the heart and bitterly repented. "I have sinned against the Lord," David said (2 Samuel 12:13).
David's prayer recorded in Psalm 51 is a testament to the fear and love he had for God, despite his weaknesses. He pleads with God to continue working with him. This great warrior known throughout the land for his courage and strength was afraid of the ultimate consequences for leaving a sin unresolved. Rather than continue to ignore the sin, he begged, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11).
Despite David's human imperfections, when an issue was brought to his attention and he recognized he was in the wrong, he did not ignore it. For fear of God and the severity of the ultimate consequences of his deliberate transgression, he humbled himself, repented of his sins and dealt with the immediate consequences, no matter how painful they were. He had a real fear of losing what he held most precious: his relationship with God and, ultimately, his salvation.
I shook my head in frustration as my sister took Isaac's arm and had him look her in the eye.
"Why don't you trust me, Isaac?" she began to cry. "Why can't you see that I only want what's best for you and would never want to hurt you?"
Isaac stood stoic, his face contorted and puffy. My sister and I looked at each other and knew what we would have to do.
I wrapped both arms around his heaving little body in a sort of clenching hug, all the while whispering in his ear to be brave. Rebekah, mustering her own courage and strength, took the tweezers firmly in one hand and Isaac's clenched fist in the other, prying open each finger that locked in the damaged thumb.
She took a breath in, and I held him closer. With one determined pinch, Rebekah wrestled free the unwilling splinter from Isaac's thumb.
Isaac, shocked from the event, held his breath, looked at his thumb and giggled, "Oh!"
Rebekah and I heaved an emotional sigh at his abrupt change in mood, and she reached to embrace Isaac as he stood there laughing and smiling at the sudden relief.
What a lesson we learned that day in the midst of an everyday calamity! So often God pleads with us to turn to Him and to remember that He doesn't want to cause us pain. What He in fact wants is for us to recognize the sin in us that is causing us pain and to remove it.
While we're experiencing a moment of deep emotional or physical pain as the result of sin, we can sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that it is not that bad or that God cannot see what we think is hidden safely in our hearts. Our current pain can sometimes seem like it is so intense and unbearable that any future benefit of changing one's actions and attitude would prove meaningless.
It is during moments like these that God pleads with us to turn to Him, deal with whatever consequences we must face because of our sin and, as a result, maintain our precious relationship with Him so that we may one day be a part of His family.
Removing sin from our lives can be painful, but we must learn to deal with it directly. When God tries to help us remove slivers of sin from our lives, we can either recoil and reject Him or we can endure the temporary discomfort of dealing with our problems directly and, in so doing, prevent a spiritual splinter from becoming a dangerous infection. UN