When our son Dan was a little boy he would sometimes do something wrong and stubbornly resist admitting it. Stewing in his unconfessed guilt, he was miserable. I often found that a gentle and loving approach would soften his heart. He’d admit his offense, I’d say I forgave him, we’d hug, and he’d go bounding off happy as could be!
It’s been said that confession is good for the soul. I believe it, not just from observing my young son, but also because I’ve experienced the same with people and, more importantly, with God.
I’m an older gray haired man who’s attempted to connect with God for over sixty years in what is usually called prayer. I’ve read stacks of books on prayer, and I’ve preached and taught on the subject more times than I can remember. I’m still learning the art of praying, but one thing I’ve become convinced of is the importance of being honest to God in prayer. Can I call it for what it really is? It’s confession.
Okay, I know, this isn’t the most popular part of praying. If we pray, the most passionate of our praying is usually pleading for God to give us what we need or even just want. Maybe we’ll remember to thank God for something good that’s come our way. Confessing something to Him just isn’t a priority. After all, don’t we have enough people telling us what’s wrong with us? Don’t we sometimes secretly struggle with admitting that we’re far from perfect? Then why would we want to get negative in our praying and bring up what’s wrong with us?
Why? Because confession’s good for the soul! My experience has been that when I’m honest to God in my praying, identifying what’s not right and good, and asking His forgiveness, I feel a whole lot better, a lot like my small son did years ago. Reality TV shows may be popular, but reality praying is what needs to gain in popularity.
What I find important to remember is that God is a loving God. He yearns to have a closer relationship with us. The way I picture it is that He is far more ready to extend grace and forgiveness than I was as a father with my young son.
When you think about it, we’re more likely to admit to someone our wrongdoing if we know beforehand that we’ll be extended grace, mercy, and forgiveness by the person. This is what God is like, but even more so! This is why I find confession a doable part of prayer, because I know He’s anxious to forgive and ready to help me move on to something better!
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave me the guilt of my sin.” King David in Psalm 32:3-5
When our son Dan was still called Danny, he would do something wrong and then deny it. He’d be angry, or at least sullen, or cool and distant. The best way to get through to him at such times was for me to bend down on a knee and in a soft, loving voice make it clear to him that forgiveness was available, if he would just ‘fess up to the “crime” and say that he was sorry.
When he did, there were sometimes tears but there was almost always a tremendous sense of relief on his part and he became a very happy little boy.
That’s what confession and forgiveness did for him and it’s something like the experience God wants us to have with Him. The stories and teachings of the Bible reveal that honest-to-God confession leads to a dynamic, vibrant relationship with God. Two of God’s amazing attributes are His grace and mercy, both of which can only be experienced when we realize our need for them, and express that need through confession.
The amazing experience of God’s forgiveness is the direct result of our confession. I know it seems strange to say, but confession is really a very positive experience! As an old commercial for Alka-Seltzer stated, “Oh, what a relief it is!”
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” (Psalm 32:1)