James Abram Garfield of Ohio was the twentieth president of the United States of America. A Republican whose term was supposed to run from 1881-1885, he had been in office only a few months when there was an assassination attempt. He was leaving Washington, D.C., by train to go on vacation with his family when Charles J. Guiteau, a mentally-unstable attorney whose numerous requests for a federal job had been turned down by Garfield, shot him at the train station on July 2, 1881. For seventy days, doctors treated him but he succumbed on Sept. 19. What actually killed him? Of course, it was an assassin’s bullet but it was more than that. It was also the blood poisoning he developed as doctors unsuccessfully attempted to recover the bullet under the primitive medical conditions of the day.
Having surgery just after he was shot, doctors tried to dig down to the bullet but failed and would later try again. Others were brought in to try. With each effort to try to get the bullet out, they unknowingly brought more and more infection into his body. One of the interesting back stories about Garfield’s death is that famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell was brought into the process because he had just developed a metal detector device. They asked him to come and see if the device could find the bullet. Bell, too, unknowingly added to the infection invasion as he joined the probing. Garfield’s temperature went extremely high. His body became weaker. They never recovered the bullet and after seventy days, Garfield died.
This story has many applications in our lives today, for there are times when people seem to be totally committed to digging and digging and digging into the hurts, wounds, problems, and pains of life. Could I just point out here that in Psalm 103:10-12, Scripture says, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
There is the reality that in forgiving us, God doesn’t keep digging. He forgives us and removes sin and its consequences, but I can assure you there are some of us who feel their spiritual calling is to dig into the depths of other’s sins or even their own. We spend days, weeks, maybe a lifetime, digging and digging and digging when we would well be served to trust God’s forgiveness and stop the digging process. There are probably many marriages that could have been saved if a husband or wife or both had just stopped digging deeper into the pain and corruption they had felt or seen.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing in that when forgiveness takes place, it involves promises in the process. There is a promise that you will not bring it up to the person or to yourself again. You will leave it alone, and at least the digging stops and healing has a chance to take place. God can handle our brokenness, our wounds, and our infections but you can’t get up every morning and start digging again.
There are sins in all our lives that have affected us and others, but if we do not live in a spiritual world of God at work in us activating forgiveness — genuine forgiveness — it’s pretty sure you can’t go on in life. If you can forgive, you can live. How do you do that? Let me just give you three thoughts.
One — When you get hurt, when you feel the pain of sin, lift it up. Give it to God. First Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” Lift it up to God who, unlike the people around us or someone we might meet, can and will forgive.
Two – Let it go. You may be the forgiver or you may be the forgiven. Do what the psalmist says God does and let it go. He removes our sins, never again to remember them against us. Are you willing to forgive somebody who has hurt you, shot you, scarred you? Let it go.
Three – Love it through. Sometimes when we forgive, we keep the shell of the event still encrusted and sitting on our desk or table or kitchen hutch somewhere as a reminder. Move past the digging and remembering processes and focus your attention on love and care for the person — even the person who hurt you. There are always barriers we keep around us as reminders of the hurt we have experienced, but even those barriers need to be draped with love. Even the person who hurt you the most has some good quality. God will help you find it so you won’t spend all your time brooding, remembering, digging. He will help you to forgive and if not forget, forgive and love through it. I have seen that happen in so many people’s lives, and it can happen in all of our lives if we will let God come and do in us what He does and keeps on loving us through the hurts of life.
If you want to talk with God regarding the sins you have committed about which you have talked with Him a thousand times, it’s a futile effort because He cast them away from Him as far as the east is from the west, which is infinitely. He remembers them no more. You’re remembering stuff God has forgiven and forgotten, so move on in love.
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