Chapter 2: How do I confess my wrongdoing to God?
Like Tommy, we desperately want to be freed from any guilt that imprisons us. The most important aspect of our confession is that it be genuine. When we are honest with ourselves about our wrongdoing, we will find peace in pouring out our hearts in genuine confession to God.
Dr. David Augsburger suggests that we could speak of forgiving as “for-grieving” (Augsburger, David. Helping People Forgive. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996). For-grieving refuses the shortcut resolution of forgetting the offense, and intentionally remembers, returns to the loss, relives the event, and retells the story until peace has been made at a level that permits an opening to a future of healing.
Maybe you can relate to some of these contrite expressions of Tommy.
“Lord, I do not know how to pray. Yet, I am sorry for the pain that I have caused others and myself. Please forgive me.”
“God, I am sad about the many wasted years of my life. I’ve been unable to accept your love or the love of anyone else. I ruined my relationship with my parents, my siblings, my wife, and my daughter. I grieve the loss of those broken relationships and the pain caused by my wrongdoing. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
“Lord, help me in my unbelief which wants to limit your grace. I am shaken by the hurtful statements, abusive behaviors, and mean-spirited actions which have characterized my life. I remember, I grieve, and I ask for your forgiveness.”
When we confess our wrongdoing, we acknowledge that we have hurt God, others, and ourselves. We no longer deny our wrongdoing. We no longer withdraw and hide, fearing that we could never be accepted. We reflect and examine our offenses and the negative impact of these wrongs. We release our burdened spirit of guilt and shame. And finally, we allow the Holy Spirit to reconstruct our relationship with God and other people.
Readings from the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures
God desires us to be honest in our admission of guilt and wrongdoing.
Joshua said to him, “My son, tell the truth here before the LORD, the God of Israel, and confess. Tell me now what you have done. Don’t try to hide it from me.”
God allows us to confess our wrongdoing without fear of rejection.
“LORD God of Israel, you are just, but you have let us survive. We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence.”
God is pleased when we willingly confess our wrongdoing with a genuine heart.
“Now then, confess your sins to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what pleases him.”
Our true confessions made to God will leave us refreshed and delighted because we have pleased God.
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven,
whose wrongs are pardoned.
Happy is the one whom the LORD
does not accuse of doing wrong
and who is free from all deceit.
When I did not confess my sins,
I was worn out from crying all day long.
Day and night you punished me, LORD;
my strength was completely drained,
as moisture is dried up by the summer heat.
Then I confessed my sins to you;
I did not conceal my wrongdoings.
I decided to confess them to you,
and you forgave all my sins.
God shows us mercy and forgiveness as we confess our sins.
You will never succeed in life if you try to
hide your sins. Confess them and give them up;
then God will show mercy to you.
Readings from the New Testament
We can boldly approach God because we have been forgiven in Christ.
We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain – that is, through his own body. We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise.
When we confess our sins, we find healing and forgiveness.
This prayer made in faith will heal the sick; the Lord will restore them to health, and the sins they have committed will be forgiven. So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.
God forgives us when we confess our wrongdoing.
If we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.
1 John 1.9
Thoughts for Reflection
- Reflect on decisions and actions that you believe need to be confessed to God. Then take time to pray and be honest with God as you confess them one by one. You may wish to journal or write your wrongs in a letter to God or someone else.
- How do you feel when you think of your wrongdoing and confess it to God? As you are able, share or write about these feelings.
- What is it like for you to be totally honest with God about what you have done in your life? Write or share about the vulnerability of being honest.
- Draw or paint a picture of you free from the weight of your wrongdoing.
Dear Lord, the Scriptures promise me that you will not reject me with my broken and contrite heart. Please, do not despise me nor reject me. Please hear my prayer of confession.
I have gone astray in the following areas… I have disappointed you in the following ways… I have failed to obey your commands in these areas… I have been mean-spirited and unkind to the following people…
Please Lord, forgive me of all that I have confessed to you.
In your merciful name. Amen.