Many of the Psalms are attributed to David. I believe he was paralyzed by the guilt of his past. However, somewhere along his journey he discovered the freedom that comes along with confession.
He wrote about this journey from confession to forgiveness in Psalm 32.
Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! — Psalm 32:1-2
But why do we need to confess sin in the first place?
David begins by saying confession is for our sake. Sometimes we think confession is for God’s sake, like our sins sort of annoy Him and some act of confession will appease Him. But David says, “No! Confession is for you.” There’s a blessing in this for you. There’s something God wants to give to you. This is about your quality of life.
Notice all the other blessings David just sort of skips over. He doesn’t talk about the blessing of wealth, or of power, or of reputation, all the things we would pursue. David is saying, “No! Those things can’t heal us.” We chase after them like they could, but they can’t heal us. David is saying, “The way to find blessing is by being forgiven.”
Because David understands that our most fundamental problem is actually a spiritual one.
He continues in Psalm 32:
When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. — Psalm 32:3-4
In essence, David is saying, When I kept silent, when I was hiding, when I wasn’t talking about it, when I was keeping it secret, I felt like I was dying inside. I imagine most of us can relate to this feeling in some way or another, because there are a lot of things in our lives we keep silent about. Things we feel ashamed of: family problems, compulsive habits, sexual addiction, to name a few. While silence in the moment might seem like the best, safest way to handle it, silence always leads to more pain and guilt and festering inside. It corrodes away our soul. It corrodes away our spirit. And it always, always, always begins to affect other parts of our lives.
It’s amazing how many of us are just stuck in the religious routine. We sing songs, serve in ministries, attend Bible studies, throw money into the offering plate. Week in and week out, we go through the same routine and nobody knows we’re dying inside. Nobody knows we have these secret sins that are keeping us from moving forward. No one knows about it.
No one knows about it — but you know about it. God knows about it.
We continue looking at Psalm 32 to see how David was finally able to let go of his guilt.
Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone. — Psalm 32:5
It almost seems too easy, doesn’t it? But there’s no process or ritual to go through, no promising anything or having to do something. In fact, confession isn’t doing something about our sin; rather, it means admitting that we can’t do anything about our sin.
There is something intrinsically broken and sinful in every human being. Merely human efforts (education, environment, therapy) cannot cure the sin problem. My brokenness, like yours, is very complex.
Jesus comes as the Great Physician. He comes for sick people who wrestle with sin, not for people who pretend they’re healthy.
If we want to heal, we need to be honest with God and ourselves and each other. Some of you are carrying around secrets that are killing you. Maybe it’s about your past, sexuality, impulses, bitterness, anger, finances, marriage, work, or whatever. But if you keep playing the game and keeping silent about your secrets, you can’t heal and move forward.
As David said in the Psalms, until he dealt with the problem of guilt and sin in his life, all this other stuff he was doing — including being the king of Israel — was really quite pointless. He was going about his life, and he was going about his duties, but his bones were wasting away. He was groaning all day long. He felt like God’s hand was heavy upon him, that his strength was sapped.
He needed to come clean.
Now we can’t miss that David ends his prayer of confession not with despair, not with discouragement, not with depression, not with self-doubt. He ends with joy.
For You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. — Psalm 32:7
This is a song of victory because he’s been forgiven. He has been set free.
You’ve been forgiven. You have been set free.
Your lying schemes, forgiven.
Your lustful acts, forgiven.
Your self-seeking manipulation, forgiven.
Your religious hypocrisy, forgiven.
All the guilt, all the shame, all the stuff you’ve been carrying maybe for years and years and years… you can be set free. God has come in the person of Jesus to set you free.
There is no story in the world like the story of redemption, and it can be your story.
Let the story of you be a story of redemption.