this is the Lord’s declaration—
turn to me with all your heart,
with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts,
not just your clothes,
and return to the Lord your God.
For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger,
abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster.
Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave a blessing behind him,
so you can offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God.
I sat on my friend’s couch, looking at the sweet women in my small group. We were discussing the chapters we’d read in the last week, and it was time.
Nobody would know if I didn’t speak up. Though we’d been talking about the parts of the book that had encouraged and convicted us most, they had no idea how God had used one small paragraph to remove the scales from my eyes and pierce my heart with fiery truth. I didn’t have to confess. But it was time.
I took a deep breath and blurted it out. I told them how I’d thought of a friend who needed to read a specific point in our book — and how God had straightened me right up, making it clear in my heart that I was the one who needed that message. I told them how He’d brought to mind a situation in which I was the guilty party, in which I had deliberately disobeyed God’s commands.
Eyes downcast, I assured them I’d learned my lesson. I apologized, aware that I’d probably disappointed them. Their response was so kind. They understood how hard it can be to love others the way God calls us to. But like best friends do, they offered accountability alongside their grace and mercy. And in that moment, when they forgave me but didn’t excuse my actions, I realized how long it had been since I had sincerely confessed a sin.
Of course, I apologize for mistakes all the time. And certainly, in quiet moments in a church service or the carpool line or the shower, I might be hit with conviction. But in the same breath I utter a quick “sorry,” I immediately move into gratitude for forgiveness and fresh mercies, vowing to try harder and do better next time.
Facing my sin that morning, I saw clearly my need for true confession, for the fasting and weeping and mourning that comes when we recognize just how far from holy we are. Don’t get me wrong! I don’t think God intends for us to wallow in our regret, to stay stuck in the mud of our mistakes without hope or healing. He is, after all, a God of forgiveness and mercy. He’s a God who loves us so much He sent His Son to take the punishment for our sins. But if we don’t acknowledge our brokenness or the severity of our sins, if we shrug them off as no big deal or assume it’s all good because we are forgiven, we’re missing the point. We’re missing the point of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and we’re missing the blessing of feeling the weight of our sin lifted off of us.
If it’s been a while since confessing your sin caused you to mourn before you rejoiced over God’s grace, I invite you to join me in a posture of humble repentance this Lent season. Let’s spend the next few weeks reflecting on God’s goodness while also taking a hard look at ourselves. And when we see all the ways we fall short of the glory of God, let’s not sweep our grief or waywardness under the carpet. Let’s be honest about it and believe that we aren’t bearing the burden of them ourselves — God bore them for us on the cross. Let’s allow that reality to sink in.
Let us prepare for the wonder of the resurrection by remembering just how much we need it. Let us turn to the Lord with hearts truly broken over our transgressions, more grateful than ever for His abounding love and forgiveness.
God, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I’ve taken Your lavish grace for granted, overlooking and underestimating my sin. Please forgive me. Please bring to mind the things I need to confess and give me the courage to turn them over to You. Thank You, Lord, for loving me so much that You died for my every sin. Thank You for not being content to leave me in my mess, for remembering me even when I forget how much I need You. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
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