I remember as a college student crashing full force into James 5:16 (The Courage to Confess).
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).
For nearly a decade, I had been returning to pornography and other sexual sins at least weekly. I loved Jesus and I hated (and loved) it.
James’ words offered me hope.
But his words also cast me into conflict.
How could I confess? I was terrified. To me, what I was doing was so embarrassing and so humiliating. I was certain if anyone ever knew, they’d reject me, word would get out, and no one would ever look at me the same again.
But James’ words wouldn’t let me go. Finally, I called and confessed to one trustworthy Christian brother. Over the next several years, a cascade of changes followed. And nothing would have changed in my life without confession.
I’ve seen this same reality play itself out in the lives of hundreds of men and women over the past twenty years: As hard as it is, confession is a necessary doorway to freedom and change.
So how do you get up the nerve to confess? If you’re carrying sins that you’ve never told a soul about, and the idea of telling someone produces serious fear and shame, here are some ideas:
- Ask Jesus for help. He’s not waiting far away with arms crossed and a furrowed brow. He’s ready and willing to help you. Ask him for courage and ask him who: Who is a safe person I can open up to about the sins I’ve been keeping secret?
- Trust God goes ahead of you. Likewise, you can assume that if you are even remotely entertaining the idea of confession, then the Holy Spirit is at work. (You think you’d come up with this idea on your own?) If God is urging you to confess, you can trust He has a loving and good reason.
- Acknowledge past hurts. One of the things that makes it so hard for many of us to confess is each of us has a history of stories where vulnerability was a negative. Maybe you cried as a kid and someone called you a “baby,” your parents never admitted their faults or modeled vulnerability, your church leaders talked about sinners as “them” and not “us,” or you’ve confessed hard things before and someone abused your trust. Whatever it was for you, acknowledge to yourself and to God how those past hurts make it hard to confess today.
- Seek out someone safe. Entrusting a difficult part of your life to another person is no small thing, so it’s important to find someone who will honor what you share. Consider someone you know who is in recovery for their own habit or addiction. Or seek out a recovery group in your area, a Christian therapist, or a spiritual coach who has expertise walking with people struggling with sexual sin.
- Take a step of faith. I wish I could say this final point isn’t needed, that you’ll just feel ready and willing, but that’s rarely the case. When I finally opened up with another human being about my ongoing sexual sin, it wasn’t really because I knew for sure how it would turn out. It was in response to what God was saying through His Word. Ultimately, it was a choice to follow Him, and entrust what happened next to Him. Decades later, I’m so glad I did.
If we can be of help, please let us know.
I’d love to hear from you! If you’ve taken the courageous step to confess once-hidden sin, are you glad you did? How has that helped you? If you haven’t yet, what keeps you from having The Courage to Confess?