There are two contradictory realities that exist in our lives, and in the lives of most everyone we know.
Reality #1: I am a broken and messy human being.
Reality #2: I pretend that I am not broken and messy.
For most of us, we value giving off an image of togetherness. We do not want others thinking poorly of us, we do not want others looking down on us, we do not want others judging us. We often put up a facade of “togetherness” when people ask us things like, “How are you?” We say, “I’m good,” or “doing well.”
When things aren’t “good” we don’t tend to tell people. Usually, when someone does respond to such questions honestly, we don’t know what to do. If we ask someone, “How are you?” and they say something to the effect of, “I’m actually pretty terrible today, because ….(fill in the blank)” we don’t typically know how to comfort them.
I tend to think this lack of preparedness to comfort others comes from the fact that we do not know how to comfort ourselves. Instead of being honest with ourselves and with others about our own struggles, we have become professionals at hiding, polishing, and decorating over the messes in our lives. And when we’re confronted with either our own mess or another’s mess, we don’t really know how to respond.
-We’re All Broken.
-In the book of Psalms, we hear and learn the language of self-expression. The Bible is kind in that it shows and teaches us how to be human. Some of the very things that come most “naturally” to us are really things that make us less human; they dehumanize us.
For example, when we sin, we often hide it, we don’t talk about it, we do not confess to another Christian, and we certainly do not want anyone finding out about it without our permission. This is our “natural” response because “if others know that we sin, they will look down on us.“ That’s what we think at least; and so we hold it in.
But listen to how David speaks of holding in his sin… “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4)
Sound familiar? Have you been there? Are you there now?
One of my favorite Christian writers talks about it like this…
“Sin demands to have a man [or woman] by himself. It withdraws him from the community [of Christians]. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.” (D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 112).
Did you catch what he said? The more isolated you are in your sin, the more destruction you will endure. Far from being helpful, hiding our sin and brokenness just causes us more and more pain and harm. Hiding our brokenness breaks us even more...it dehumanizes us.
Going back to Psalm 32, David offers us counsel for how to actually deal with our brokenness. He writes,
“I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to You at a time when You may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach Him. You are a hiding place for me, You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah”
Rather than hiding his sin, sitting on it, keeping it inside, and pretending it's not there, David confesses it. He’s tried to hide it, and it ate him alive. It made him feel like his bones were rotting, and he was weighed down inside. Instead, he confesses his sin to God and finds life and freedom. When he confesses to God, God forgives Him, “for with the Lord there is steadfast love and plentiful forgiveness…” (Psalm 130:7).
But then he writes, Selah. That word means: Stop. Stop and really consider what you have just read. Here, it means stop and truly reflect on the fact that God is gracious. Not only is He willing to hear your confession, ultimately, because of Jesus, He is willing to forgive you. To free you from the rot and pressure of sin and shame. He is willing to make you whole.
This is the exact opposite of what sin does. Sin dehumanizes us. God makes us more human than we previously were.
But David goes on. Having found this freedom he encourages the rest of us toward something better.
Stop pretending, stop hiding, stop acting like you’re not broken.
There will come a point when God will judge us in our sins. For some, God will give us over to our sinfulness now (Romans 1:24); but there is also coming that great Judgment Day when God will separate sinners and saints for all eternity. On that day, those trusting themselves will not be saved.
David concludes his thought with a life-saving reality… “God is our hiding place, and He preserves us.” And isn’t that really what we’re looking for when we’re hiding our sin? We’re looking for salvation. We think salvation is not being known, not being judged, and in being well-thought of by others….even if it's not true.
David speaks to us in our foolishness and says there is real salvation. Real hope. Real peace. And contrary to those dehumanizing actions we so “naturally” run to, salvation and peace come through being fully known.
Bonhoeffer says it this way, “In confession [of sin and shame] the light of the Gospel of Jesus breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart. The sin must be brought into the light. The unexpressed must be openly spoken and acknowledged. It is a hard struggle until the sin is openly admitted. But God breaks gates of brass and bars of iron (Psalm 107:16). Since confession of sin is made in the presence of a Christian brother, the last stronghold of self-justification is abandoned. The sinner surrenders; he gives up all his evil. He gives his heart to God, and he finds the forgiveness of his sin in the fellowship of Jesus Christ and his brother...He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God...Now he can be a sinner and still enjoy the grace of God. He can confess his sins and in this very act find fellowship for the first time.” (LT, 113).
So...are you hiding in plain sight? Are you lonely but don't know how to find comfort? Are you being eaten alive by your sin? Are you messy and broken?
Listen to David...come into the light. Be honest and find life.