Read Psalm 32:1-6
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.[b]
5 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
the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them. (NIV)
Confessing our failures doesn’t come easily. In Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Tess as a young bride decides to tell her new husband of a terrible mistake she had made in an earlier relationship. She stakes her whole future on how her husband will receive her confession. As she speaks, though, his body stiffened, his mouth tightened, his eyes froze in a blank stare. She gambled on his love and lost. He couldn’t receive her confession with any graciousness. Confession is at heart a plea for grace. We risk confession in the hope of finding grace.
Unlike the world of Thomas Hardy, the world of the God of the Bible is shot through with grace. When we confess to him, we accept responsibility for our wrongdoing: we don’t shift the blame. We stake our future on the assurance that God will not shrink in horror at our confession or throw up his hands in disgust and say “enough is enough”. We presume his light overcomes our darkness, that his goodness outweighs our badness. We trust that the discomfort of confession will lead to the comfort of forgiveness.
Of course the psalmist here reminds us that there is great discomfort in not being honest with God about our shortcomings. It can even have physical consequences. Keeping our failures inside causes them to be a sort of toxin in our deepest selves. Our energy can be sapped, our bodies wearied. And there is the thick cloud that blots out the reality of God’s love and strength. Confession may be a big ask, but not to confess is an even bigger one.
This is no morbid obsession with sin either. It is a realistic coming to grips with who we are in relation to God. We confess not to wallow in our wrongdoing but to be free of it. We face our brokenness that it may be mended. Confession has been strikingly described as the rumbling of a crumbling heart.