Confession and growth
Thinking about the kingdom of Heaven as organism reminds me of something I learned as a schoolboy: that the role of blood in the body is like that of a waiter — bringing food, and cleaning up afterwards. As the cells in our bodies require food and oxygen, so all of us need to be reminded that Jesus loves us.
And so with waste; if not carried away it will poison the cell and kill the organism; accordingly, James tells us to confess to one another and pray for one another, so that we may be healed (James 5:16). And in a verse made famous by many sermons and Sunday School lessons, John writes that if we confess our sins, God will forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9; more context here).
But is it only our sins we confess? If I feel bad, is that a sin? How about if I’m anxious about (or disappointed by) election results, or if hate the climate (meterological or political) where God has led me to live? Or if I’m annoyed with my neighbors, or because the car and computer and washing-machine all broke in the same week? We’d do well to also confess those — appropriately.
|Of course we mustn’t whine and complain: as the Apostle Paul says, we’re to do all things without arguing or complaining — and as my elder teen reminded me a dozen years ago as I decried the fare boxes on the Kobe buses for the Nth time (“Daddy, I think you’re complaining about that too much,” she said).|
But in order to have truth in our core, we need to confess not only our sins but also our disappointments and other negative feelings, as we see throughout the Psalms and also in the example of our Lord when he prayed in the garden.
What good does this sort of confession do, though? Well, it might force us to seek God, as David did:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24
Or as Sara Groves wrote more recently,
Woke up on the wrong side of the bed
The wrong side of the room
The wrong side of the world
I can’t put my finger on the mood
It’s not melancholy, anger or the blues,
And I love my husband, my house, my job
Couldn’t be any better
And really, what else is there
Then I realize, I’m forgetting God
It’s the root of all my misery
Lord, first of all, how is it between You and me
Whether I think I already know what I’m annoyed about or not, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll do well to talk to God about it. As God promised Jeremiah, he will answer if we call (Jeremiah 33:3). James also tells us of God’s promise to give wisdom to all who ask (James 1:5).
Let’s look at that promise with a little more context: James tells us to consider it all joy when we meet various trials, and tells us why. Then he tells us that God promises wisdom to those who ask. In other words, this promise of wisdom seems to be especially for those times when it’s hard “counting it all joy.”
Sometimes we know what’s bugging us; sometimes we don’t. And sometimes we don’t even realize anything’s wrong but we’re working joylessly and a little too hard.
In any case, though, it’s good to talk to God about it because he can expose our assumptions. Suppose I’m upset about some election results, and I talk to God about it. If I listen, perhaps the Spirit will bring a passage like this one to mind:
“To whom will you compare me
or who is my equal?” says the Holy One,
he who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.from Isaiah 40
and maybe I’ll realize that I’d been imagining that because of the election results, God would somehow not be able to do his work. Or if I fall apart because I lost some money in the stock market, and if I pause and complain to God about it, perhaps he’ll help me see that I had been imagining “more” might someday equal either “security” or “happiness,” or that I was holding in my mind a wrong idea about whose money it really was.
Or maybe, after complaining about whatever it is, the Lord might come to me as he did to Elijah in 1 Kings 19, with nourishment, with his presence, with a question, maybe with a mission.
Sometimes just hearing the question (like “What are you doing here, Elijah?“) is enough to make me realize that I’ve been indulging in folly (or, as Joyce Meyer calls it, “stinking thinking“). Other times I need to whine a bit more before I come to my senses and remember what God has done despite folly (my own and others’) and disaster.
But whatever it is that’s bugging you or me, talking to God about it will help us grow — and grow closer to him.