The Healing Power of Confession
Written By Madelyn Ferris
I once heard a Mom loudly insist to her teenaged daughter, “You need to go to confession!” I remember thinking how intimidated I would be to step into a private chamber and confess my sins: I’m such a rule follower, I’d have to request extra time just to check everything off my list! Whew, I thought, I’m glad my church tradition doesn’t require the ritual of confession. Or does it?
For most of my early Christian education, I have heard the words if you confess your sins, or if we freely admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He…will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (John 1:9.) Somewhere along the way, I also learned that when seeking God, it’s a good idea to confess one’s own sins first. Except I really don’t want to think about my sins. It’s messy and it seems disingenuous to just wake up the next day and do some of the same things over again.
In the mid-2000s, I received word that my sister had a brain tumor. We later learned that it was both operable and benign; but early on, every possible, terrible scenario crept into my head and I was really scared–for her and for me. You think about losing a parent: sort of the natural order of life; but, a child or a sibling, not so much. Standing in church one day, I was praying for healing for her and remembered a recent teaching that confession of my own sin, and especially forgiveness of others’ sins against me, was an essential part of asking for this healing. It didn’t take me long to find a deep hurt in my heart. I was angry and blaming specific people who were probably just doing the best they could under the circumstances. All the anger and resentment in the world was not going to change anything. That very moment, I asked God’s forgiveness and forgave the source of that hurt. This process was a bit more moving than the starkness of this re-telling, but it was very emotional and real to me.
You might be thinking, “I have so many sins to confess, where would I begin?” We’re all members of that club, so here’s a place to start. Jesus often taught using parables, so you might spend time with Luke 15:11-24 about a wayward son who leaves home, becomes destitute, and then must go home and ask forgiveness from his father. And what does the father do? He orders a huge celebration for him with all the best food, drink, and entertainment! This is how God feels when we go to him with our confession. Confession is cleansing, and we feel joy, peace, and freedom. This is one reason weekly corporate worship is so important: we come together to privately recall the challenges, adversity, and decisions we made last week that may or may not have been healing, redemptive or restorative.
You might also set aside 15 minutes each week for meditation, asking God to reveal to you where you need forgiveness. What does He want you to learn from your circumstances, fears, frustrations? How is he convicting you right now? Where in your body do you physically ache? Then just Be Still. Confess as you feel led, and then “let it go.” With Jeremy’s encouragement in his Lenten blog on meditation, this has already become a new, albeit still awkward, practice for me.
Joyce Meyer points out that “anything hidden has power over us…the most freeing thing we can do is face up to what God wants to expose…He knows about it anyway.” When I look at it this way, the only disadvantage of confession is that it will hurt my pride, which can probably stand a good talking-to anyway. Turns out, when I’m really scared, as I was for my sister, pride had no currency at all. As for my sister, after successful surgery, those of us waiting for word from the doctor held our own celebration. I distinctly remember that carbs and shopping were involved. And although, unfortunately, she did lose her sense of smell, I’m thankful for the many laughable moments together when even that is a blessing, too. Trust me; any further explanation would be too much information!
Write This Way:
Think back over your day. What are you grateful for? What went well? Were there moments or circumstances that really didn’t bring out the best in you? Confess that right now. You’ll feel free and at peace. Do this daily for a week. Better yet, do this all the way to Easter Day. Did it bring you joy? Did you forgive others more easily? Did you forgive yourself? If so, keep on keeping on!
About the Author:
Madelyn Ferris is a member of Commonway and previously served on the Elder Board. Madelyn holds degrees from Ball State and Indiana University and has been with Paws, Inc. over 35 years. She and husband, Dwight, are enjoying their new granddaughter and thankful that another is on the way!