Spider Bites and Strongholds: Godly Sorrow Part 2 by Neil Whitwam
Another busy day in the County Hospital’s Emergency Department is in full swing. Perched on the exam table, Willie looks a little nervous.
For the twentieth time he peers at his watch. What could possibly be taking so long? There is a quick and quiet knock on the exam room door, which immediately opens, allowing the entrance of Dr. C.J. Pippin.
Pointedly but kindly, she asks him what brings him into the emergency room today. With a mixture of pride, horror, and fear Willie blurts out, “I think I’ve got a spider bite on my arm!”
His story comes out: it started gradually. Willie had noticed that a little area on the back of his left upper arm seemed a bit irritated, a little tender to the touch.
Soon, the area began to itch and burn, and he began to note some swelling and hardening of the region. He tried his best to avoid scratching at it, because it was becoming increasingly agonizing to do so.“Willie blurts out, ‘I think I’ve got a spider bite on my arm!'”
Nonetheless, the unbearable itching forced him to scratch it. His hope that it would go away faded as the symptoms progressed. The area continued to become more swollen, hot, pruritic, and excruciatingly painful.
He had kept it covered with a Band-Aid. It grew. He had rubbed some of Aunt Gladys’ drawing salve on it. It grew. He soaked it in warm water with Epsom salts. It just continued to grow in size, redness, heat, and pain.
Now, after trying everything that he could think of, the pain had become intolerable.
“So, I just didn’t know what else to do Dr. Pippin,” Willie concludes mournfully, his eyes filling with tears.
“I just can’t stand it anymore. I can’t move, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t think! Is there anything you can do to help me?”
The physician gently reassured him, “Of course, I’ll do my best to take care of you, Willie.”
Compassionately, she explains that this is not really a spider bite, although the belief is a very common misperception.
Willie has a boil (Job was covered with them head-to-toe in Job 2:7) or as the medical community calls them, a cutaneous abscess.
Beginning very gradually, they are barely noticeable at first. An irritated hair follicle, a little pimple, a tiny nick or scratch, or some other seemingly insignificant issue allows bacteria to gain entrance under the skin.“Compassionately, she explains that this is not really a spider bite, although the belief is a very common misperception.”
The bacteria then, as bacteria are designed to do, begin to divide themselves and reproduce. At first, the infection grows in tiny advances. It grows unnoticed, or almost unnoticed.
The body mounts a resistance against the invading bacteria. There is an inflammatory response mobilizing various specialized proteins and white blood cells to the area.
A battle rages, and the body’s initial efforts are defeated as the increasing bacterial population overwhelms the local defenders.
The body then enters a phase of isolating the infection to protect itself from an overwhelming invasion. It forms a protective pocket around the infection, similar to a siege in ancient warfare. Nothing gets in, nothing gets out. This process is effective but imperfect.
Unfortunately, although slowed down, the infection does continue to grow. The isolation or “walling off” process is a mixed blessing.“Sin is like this, especially those sticky, clinging, besetting sins with which we all struggle. They tend to start out as a tiny issue, almost nothing really. It is painless. Actually, it is even enjoyable. Sin is fun.”
It is helpful in that it prevents the infection from quickly becoming systemic, getting into the bloodstream, and killing the individual.
It is harmful, however, in that the body is then largely helpless to get any more soldiers into the battle.
Even modern weapons, like antibiotics, are of limited help at this stage because the pocket of infection has no blood supply to get the antibiotic into the area.
Sin is like this, especially those sticky, clinging, besetting sins with which we all struggle. They tend to start out as a tiny issue, almost nothing really. It is painless. Actually, it is even enjoyable. Sin is fun.“We realize, too late, that what was a minor, superficial dabbling out of the will of God has become a deeply rooted stronghold of sin, a spiritual abscess in our lives.”
After a while, however, it starts to fester. It begins to grow. As the sin takes hold and proliferates in our lives it becomes increasingly painful. Before we know it, it has become a stronghold interfering with our lives.
It becomes irritating, and then painful, and eventually, agonizing. It brings pain and sorrow to both us, and to those around us.
We realize, too late, that what was a minor, superficial dabbling out of the will of God has become a deeply rooted stronghold of sin, a spiritual abscess in our lives.
We try to just stop it, and then realize that we cannot easily do so. We pray for forgiveness, but soon we commit the same sin again. We pray again for forgiveness, and then we turn around and do the same thing again, and again, and again, and again.
As this process repeats, we fall into the sin, repent, sin, repent, sin, and repent cycle. At the same time, God seems to be growing more and more distant.
We try to cover it up with Band-Aids of self-righteousness. We try to rub on it the salve of excuses and blame distribution. We soak our besetting sin in the bath of Christian service. This does not work.
Naturally, we feel defeated, so we wall off, or isolate the sin in our lives, just like the body does with the “spider bite.”“As this process repeats, we fall into the sin, repent, sin, repent, sin, and repent cycle. At the same time, God seems to be growing more and more distant.”
This has the advantage of keeping us functional as we lead our daily lives. We can, at times, almost completely put that part of our life aside as we work for the Lord and fellowship with the brethren. We still feel the ache and irritation, but sometimes we can almost forget about it.
At other times, however, the infection rises to the center of our consciousness either drawing us back into the sin actively or causing us guilt and despair regarding this now well-established stronghold in our lives; over which it seems we will never have complete and total victory.
The problem is that when we are dealing with God things, we suppress the sin and the memory of the sin; and when we are in sin, we suppress the Holy Spirit and His working in our lives.
Thus, the twain seldom meet (except when we “repent” in the sin, repent, sin, repent cycle). We continue with this bizarre dichotomy until we doubt our sanity….
No, child of God: if you find yourself in this position you are not insane. You are in a situation that many, many of us face – or have faced (myself included).“Just like poor Willie, in agony from his “spider bite” who comes to the hospital seeking remedy and relief; when I come to the end of my rope, I can come to my Great Physician.”
You are deceived and oppressed by the forces of darkness. You are being defeated. You may feel out of control, that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and that you are doomed to deal with this stronghold for the rest of this life, and then face Christ with shame in the next.
You may feel that there is no hope – no answer this side of the grave.
This, praise God is not the case. The truth will make us free (Jn. 8:32).
Just like poor Willie, in agony from his “spider bite” who comes to the hospital seeking remedy and relief; when I come to the end of my rope, I can come to my Great Physician.
I can cry out to Him that I just cannot take any more of this. I’ve tried and tried and failed and failed, and I’m sick and tired of the process. I am exhausted from my double mindedness. I am in despair. I am ready to do whatever it takes!!!
Pain, it seems, is the great motivator.
Dr. Pippin explains to Willie what needs to be done: “Willie, this abscess needs to be drained. That is the one sure cure. I’ll try to numb it first, but I won’t lie to you, it will hurt.”“There is also healing available for our besetting sins – our strongholds – our addictions. The answer, the only correct answer, like all answers to life’s struggles, is found in the Word of God.”
She tells him that she must take a scalpel and cut as deeply and as widely over the area as is needed to do the job. Then take a probing tool, and stick it deeply into the area, breaking up all of the accumulated pus and dead tissue, removing it.
The wound would then be washed out with clean water, and some packing placed into it to let it drain for a while as it begins to heal from the inside out.
It would heal – with a scar.
“Okay, Dr. Pippin. Go ahead, do whatever it takes, but please help me!”
Willie has found the correct answer for his “spider bite.” He has come to the one who can help him. He has approached the one who has the wisdom and the tools required to bring resolution to his physical corruption.
He has found that if he trusts the physician, that healing and restoration are available to him.
There is also healing available for our besetting sins – our strongholds – our addictions. The answer, the only correct answer, like all answers to life’s struggles, is found in the Word of God.
Stay tuned for the next installment in the Little Willie series!
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