Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 32, Daniel 9:3-10, Hebrews 2:10-18, John 12:44-50
Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us: “You are only as sick as your secrets.” The author of Psalm 32 knew this well. He wrote of his formerly deceitful spirit:
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Today we might describe a secret as eating away at us or causing us to lose sleep. The longer we convince ourselves to keep our sins secret, the larger the role they play in our lives, yet somehow we convince ourselves an admission of guilt would be worse than the physical and psychological destruction we inflict upon ourselves. We fear the consequences of revealing our truths – often for good reason – but until we face them, we will not know peace. We want relief from our pain, but we turn to the bad medicine of substance abuse, anger, self-righteousness, or self-harm rather than swallow the bitter yet effective pill of confession.
Whether it is a one-on-one sacrament as observed by Roman Catholics and Lutherans or the community prayer and assurance of pardon during other Protestant liturgies, most Christian denominations practice some form of confession and absolution. Corporate confession is a valuable reminder of our ongoing need to evaluate and improve our behaviors and attitudes, but it is rarely a catalyst for deep change. Individual confession – to a priest, pastor, counselor, friend, or support group – forces us to confront truths in a personally meaningful way. Sometimes we have to admit them to others before we can really believe them. God’s forgiveness is always available to us, but first we must recognize what it is we need forgiveness for.
Guilt is a great weight. We can shift its useless burden from shoulder to shoulder, desperately growing weaker while trying to convince others we are strong … or we can confess our weakness. God’s forgiveness is not about shaming our weakness or balancing the load, but about teaching us to drop it entirely. Each secret we speak is a weight we no longer carry.
Comfort: God’s forgiveness is always available, because He is more interested in loving us than damning us.
Challenge: Unburden yourself a little this week. Pick a sin or secret that troubles you and confess it to a trusted friend, minister, or counselor.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.