by Peggy Park
Anthony rode on a long train trip through Eastern Europe. He clutched a heavy bag on his lap throughout the journey. Upon disembarking the conductor inquired, “Why didn’t you put that bag down?”
“I didn’t know there was a place to put it,” Anthony replied.
Sometimes even Christians forget to put down our heavy bag of burdens. We may go day after miserable day carrying a load we were never designed to carry. Soon we are reeling under the weight and our witness is compromised. In addition our fellowship with the Lord is hindered and our worship is interrupted. We cannot worship God when we are hiding unconfessed sins.
Confession of Sin
First John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The promise is sure; so why do we not immediately run to the Father in prayer when we sin? Perhaps we are so ashamed we want to hide like Adam and Eve did, hoping the Lord will not see us. This is fruitless, of course, just as it was for them. The Lord is quick to forgive us and cleanse us when we come to him in confession.
I have found the longer I wait to give God my burden, the longer it takes for me to feel restored in my relationship with him. Once I confess I still may go days feeling deprived of his presence—not that he wants this, but it takes me time to fully accept his forgiveness. Unconfessed sin creates a barrier in our relationship with the Lord. The sweet fellowship with him is interrupted. Shame causes us not to be able to receive from God.
Examples in Scripture
We see God’s attitude toward those who confess and repent modeled in the parable of the prodigal son. The father went out to meet the repentant son and embraced him. He welcomed him back into the family with a celebration. We may not consider our sins of the same severity as those of the prodigal son, but we rejoice at the father’s quick response and we see in it a picture of Father God with his children.
King David took another man’s wife and arranged for her husband to be killed in battle. We read David’s lament in Psalm 51:10 as he confesses his wrongdoing and asks God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” In verse 12 he prays, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” It is here we read that God desires “a broken and contrite heart”(verse 17).
When I finally bow my knee and confess, it is like a breath of fresh air as I experience God’s forgiveness and renew our fellowship. But even then I may not immediately return to the same depth of intimacy I enjoyed with God before sin reared its head in my life. This is one of the strongest reasons for trying to keep short accounts with the Lord and be current on confession.
I think of some sins as the “oops” kind where we slip, recognize it immediately, confess, and are right back in fellowship. Then there are the “dig in our heels” situations where we refuse to admit our sin, hold onto it, and attempt to justify it to ourselves and anyone else within earshot. We must try the Lord’s patience while he waits for us to face and admit our sin. This is a dangerous place to be. The life of Christ will not shine through to others when we are in this state.
Confession of Pain and Hurts
The burden we need to release may be pain related to another person who has hurt us. A close friend of mine loved the Lord with all her heart and was a strong believer.
We were prayer and ministry partners for several years. After an extended stay in Israel, she returned home harboring an unfounded offense against me. She never discussed it with me, cut off contact, and moved to another city. Jane became very ill and returned to my city to die under the care of friends and refused to let them call me. I did not know any of this until after her death. She wrestled with many unresolved wounds from her past, and did not even tell her children or her mother about her condition. They, like me, learned of her critical illness after she died. I cried before the Lord as I sought to resolve my grief and disappointment. Thankfully God give me peace about this as I placed my hurt before him. Had I known about this situation before she died, I would have tried to talk to her about the misunderstanding and bring closure.
As an adult I was bothered by two instances of my own immature behavior involving my mother as I was growing up. I prayed about it and one day an opportunity arose that allowed me to ask for her forgiveness, which she readily gave. We laughed over my youthful bad judgment and actions. What a relief to have that pain off my mind and spirit!
Now I encourage others to be sure they listen to that inner nudging of conscience and apologize when needed. It is too late to make amends when we are standing over a grave.
Confessions to Others
Sometimes confronting another person does more harm than good.
If we are led to go to another person with whom we have a problem, we should not go in an accusatory manner, but with a loving and humble attitude. Once I was in great distress over a situation in my family. I confided in a longtime friend, but she gave me a lecture rather than a listening ear. My way of dealing with this kind of problem in the past had been to break all contact, mark the person off my list of friends, and have nothing to do with her. But I considered all the years of friendship we had enjoyed, prayed over it, and then went to her and calmly discussed it, first explaining what her friendship had meant to me. The conflict was resolved and we are good friends to this day.
James 5:16 tells us, “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
God’s View of Confessed Sin
Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my sake, and remembers your sins no more. The psalmist wrote, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
The prophet Micah wrote, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sins and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18, 19).
Hezekiah reasoned, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
We would do well to remember these promises when we hesitate to run to God and confess our sins. Sometimes we forgive but then continue to remember the situation and let it rule our attitudes and affect our thoughts toward the person involved. The Word of God assures us he does indeed forget our confessed sins.
Unlike Anthony, we know we have a place to put our heavy loads—we just have to remember to do so and walk away free from the burden we were carrying.
Peggy Park is a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky.
Are You Still Carrying Your Load?
• Is there something weighing on your heart that you need to confess to God? If so, go to him now.
• Do you feel like you are unaware of certain sins in your life? If you have a lack of peace or feel like you are exhibiting behaviors unlike your usual actions, look deeper into the issue. What is at the root of these problems? Seek God’s guidance.
• Is there someone you need to confess to and seek forgiveness from? Take steps to talk to that person this week.
• Read, dwell upon, and memorize verses from David’s lament in Psalm 51. And lay down your burden.