“Can we talk” was a popular come-on line from comedienne Joan Rivers. It is also the title of a popular song and a 1996 book by Gini Graham Scott. However, more important to our discussion today is James 5:16 – “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
Confession is a word with many connotations. However, whenever it is used, confession entails sharing and the communication of information. Sometimes, jokingly, I will ask a congregation to turn to their left and share their most secret hidden sins with their neighbor; but we are not asking that here, nor are we joking. Confession is an important principle in the Bible and an important decision in a person’s life. Here we are asking you to confess that you may be healed.
But let us back up a step and first introduce an important foundational concept for our conversation: there is a difference between guilt and shame. Shame is an external “emotion” aimed at us by others. The keyword here is external. Guilt on the other hand is an internal “emotion” that we aim at ourselves. Shame can impact us in life. However, if it is ever aimed at you I would remind you of Romans 8:1 – “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus;” because Jesus has set us free. Guilt, on the other hand, is more problematic: how do you set yourself free from your own emotions?
Life can be full of temptations. Some are easy to avoid but some are difficult to avoid; and all can be very difficult to escape from once we are ensnared by them. How do we avoid temptations like: food, porn, and lust? And how do we escape the embrace of addictions like: alcohol, drugs, and opioids? Each of these temptations and addictions are worthy topics to discuss on their own, but let us return to our discussion of guilt. If you are suffering or have suffered one of the temptations just mentioned you may be beating yourself up with guilt. So how do you free yourself from your own emotions? That is where confession comes in.
When we think of confessing, our normal thoughts call up describing a misstep in life; like an angry word, a negative retort, or an emotional outburst. It is good to confess these simpler missteps and to reconcile a situation. But can you confess a major addiction or a porn habit? And who would you confess to; who would you trust with this information? Do you confess to a spouse or to a friend?
Since we are talking about serious matters that require serious thought and serious solutions, let us share some suggestions. In our Church Family there are individuals who have walked the paths you are on. Many of these individuals are available to help you. These confessors are the people you should initially seek and talk to. For example, in our Church we have an “addictions” ministry that deals with a number of the temptations we have mentioned. We also have a “Grief share” ministry that helps those walking through the Valley of Death. Additionally we have professional counselors and spiritual advisors available for one-on-one help. So, do not beat yourself up; seek help! Start with these groups or individuals and confess the challenges you are dealing with and initiate the healing process.
Let me bring up one more very real and often undiscussed temptation: suicide. “The rate of suicide in the United States increased 28 per cent from 1999 to 2016, according to a June report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Now there are many reasons for contemplating suicide, including guilt, depression, and mental health challenges. But the reason we bring up this problem is that: “A big challenge exists in that suicidal people often conceal their symptoms.” Concealment is the opposite of confession…sadly with opposite results.
If you have any thoughts of suicide, talk to someone! “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This verse cannot be truer in any circumstance other than the one in which a person is contemplating suicide. Suicide is permanent, it cannot be reversed; so please share your fears and seek help.
Peter sank in the sea when he took his eyes off of Jesus; when he temporarily lost his trust in the Lord. Are you facing a situation that requires full trust in the Lord as you step out in obedience to Him and His word? The real risk lies in the temptation to not obey God’s word. So keep your eyes on Jesus, and He will see you safely to the other shore.
So “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).