There was a time in my adult life when I thought we were only supposed to confess our sins to God. I based it on scriptures like, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).
At some point, though, I ran across a more intimidating verse: “[C]onfess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16) (emphasis added).
I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of confession as a two-part process involving God and others. It was easier to vaguely tell my friends that I was — um, you know, “struggling.” It protected me from embarrassment, and more importantly, it protected my image.
But then my friend Steve Blair called me out one day after I said I was “struggling.”
“Struggling with what?” asked Steve.
I froze up.
“Oh — um — it’s just the stuff that everyone deals with, you know,” I said, with my voice trailing off.
“No, I don’t know,” he said. “Let’s hear it.”
“I guess it doesn’t really matter,” I said.
“Of course it does. Or it wouldn’t be so hard for you to talk about it.”
I was afraid of telling someone how dark my thoughts were, how much I had fooled everyone into thinking I was some kind of Christian golden boy. But I knew Steve really cared about me, and I also knew he would keep the conversation between us. So despite my great reluctance, I blurted it all out.
Steve didn’t even flinch. He just listened, reassured me I wasn’t alone in my brokenness, and prayed for me.
That was 16 years ago, and to this day, I still make sure I’ve got a Steve or two in my life — the kind of person who will allow me to confess my brokenness but still love me anyway. Because the thing is, I’m weak, and there’s nothing that makes me want to run from God like feeling unworthy of Him because of my sin.
No wonder He, a good Father, wants us to confess our sin to others. As we put words to our brokenness, the listener is privileged to enter that brokenness alongside us — providing eyes that see our shame, ears that hear our remorse, and words of assurance that echo those of the Holy Spirit.