The historical surgery took place on February 15, 1921. Dr. Kane applied local anesthesia to his patient and cut through skin and tissues, found the infected appendix, removed it. The patient assured the medical team he experienced minimal pain and discomfort. The patient’s name? Dr. Evan Kane. The patient and the doctor were one in the same person.
In the 1920’s, removing an appendix was considered major surgery, requiring a large incision, and always needing general anesthetic. Dr. Kane had different views on this. He believed the use of a local anesthetic would be more beneficial to the patient’s speedy recovery. He had performed nearly four thousand appendectomies, so he knew the procedure well. The physician had observed patients after being “put under” by general anesthetic, their recovery and healing always took much longer than expect. Critics and skeptics mocked his opinions, so Dr. Kane set out to prove his point. To perform the surgery on himself, he propped himself up on the operating table and used mirrors to see the infected section of his body. The brave and opinionated Dr. Kane removed his own appendix.[i] Don’t try this at home!
Dr. Kane’s example magnifies a valuable spiritual principle. As individuals, we are accountable to God, who will assist us in finding and removing any spiritually toxic infection – specifically, bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness. For leaders in any organization, business, or church, finding freedom through forgiveness is an essential component to maintain spiritual wholeness and healthy relationships.
Early on in our ministry, my first husband and I experienced a very painful departure from a church staff where he had been a pastor. Others may be part of an organization which requires following leaders we don’t like or trust. Some may be struggling with forgiveness because an illness or accident has horribly interrupted your life. Or others have experienced the loss of friends or church with a job change or move. Or still others, a recent loss of income with a demotion or layoff in your employment, you are upset – although you had seniority and tenure, you were the one given the pink slip. Maybe you are now an empty-nester, or an adult child has recently married, and you are letting go of parenting him or her. Perhaps you’ve been incarcerated for several years, and a decade or two have slipped by as you have been behind bars.
Each of these situations and others, may cause us to feel snagged or snarled by unhealthy attitudes of bitterness and anger. Because of unresolved personal and spiritual conflict, toxic habits, and infectious sins, may have become coping mechanisms. The good news is we can learn to cooperate with God and invite Him to perform a sacred surgery. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can open ourselves up, as we vulnerably choose total honesty and dependence, we can face our pain, and show God our hurt. It’s amazing what happens when we declare God’s Word, submit to His plans, and rely on His power. He removes the toxic emotion of bitterness, cuts away an inflamed attitude of resentment, and roots out the infectious habit of overindulgence.
Charles Stanley[ii] offers these four steps to conquering an unforgiving spirit:
1. Repentance – Confess your sin before God. Romans 2:4, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kingdom in forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance [NASB].”
2. Release – Let go of your guilt, receive God’s peace. Romans 8:38, 39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
3. Recognition – Realize God is pruning you to bear more fruit. John 15:1,2, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it that it may bear more fruit [NASB].”
4. Remembrance – Remember what God has done for you, He wants you to do for others. Matthew 18: 21-22, “… How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? … Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
As we grow in Jesus, we face choices to forgive or not. As long as we live, we can be sure we’ll face obstacles and opportunities, trials and triumph, and decisions and determination. We can rely on the comfort of Proverbs 3:26, “… for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”
When we ask God to reveal to us untruths and areas of unforgiveness for what they are, and we can step over the trap the enemy has laid for us. “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).”
As we apply the valuable spiritual principle Dr. Kane exemplified by performing surgery on himself. We can work through the four step process offered by Charles Stanley above.
Because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the strength of the Holy Spirit, God will help us find and remove any spiritually toxic infection. Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Ask God to perform your sacred surgery. He is waiting to be invited to divinely intervene. None of us look forward to going through surgery. But I encourage you, take time to ask God to show you any way in which you are being deceived by holding onto bitterness, hurt, or anger. And when He does, you can permit Him to have His way to remove the toxic emotions. You will find joy and peace of the truth in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” What are you waiting for?
[i] Robert J. Morgan, Mastering Life Before It’s Too Late: 10 Biblical Strategies for a Lifetime of Purpose, Howard Books, New York, NY, 2015, pg. 161
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