“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
In college, I made a mistake. A BIG mistake. One lie led to another, and eventually the police got involved. I knew that the longer I tried to cover up my mistake, the bigger the consequences I’d face. When I picked up the phone to call my parents, I immediately started to cry. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid. Instead of being met with harsh words and anger, which would have been justified, they simply asked me why I had done what I did. After listening to me blubber my way through the story, they said that they hoped I would learn from this and that they knew I would do the right thing. They didn’t pick up my mess, but they did love me through it.
It’s not easy for anyone to admit when they have done something wrong. It’s not easy for me to confess my sins and shortcomings, but I’ve always believed in the power of transparency and honesty. I was never afraid of what was on the other side of the truth, in large part due to my parents response to my lesser confessions growing up. As hard as it is to confess our sins to one another, I believe it is even harder to respond with love when you hear a confession, especially one that leaves you feeling hurt.
In our marriage, Chris often felt afraid to confess his sins to me because he feared my reaction. When he had told me the truth, I often responded in anger with judgment rather than in love with Biblical correction. I admit that I still struggle in this area. I am emotional by nature, and I often let my emotions rise quickly to the surface. But I also have a desire to create space in our relationship for confession and truth-telling, and I know that I play a big role in creating that space.
How do you respond to confessions from your spouse? Does your response encourage or discourage future confessions? How can you and your spouse create a safe space for confession in your marriage?
Ask God to fill your heart with an abundance of love and grace. Ask for patience in your marriage as your spouse confesses their sins to you and begins the process of repentance. Ask for a spirit of conviction over your family as you lay a foundation of truth in your marriage.
I grew up in a home where there were very few discussions about family, and we certainly didn’t talk about our struggles or life experiences with one another. To this day, I know very little about my parents. Even though I knew my parents loved me and wanted the best for me, our home was not one where I could confess my failures or mistakes without fear of being screamed at and punished. Eventually I came to accept this as normal, and I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with my family’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As a result, I developed a habit of keeping things to myself at a very early age.
It wasn’t until after Kate learned about my affair that I finally learned how much power there is in confession. During one of my weekly meetings with my pastor, he read James 5:16 and reminded me that confessing my sins to another believer breaks the power of that sin over me. Once you confess your sins, you no longer have to bear the burden of your sins alone. You have freedom from guilt and shame, and it is easier to accept forgiveness.
I admit that I still struggle with confession. Confession takes guts. It’s tough, painful, and sometimes life altering. It’s not easy to be 100 percent honest when Kate asks me tough questions. Sometimes I want to protect her feelings. Sometimes I am ashamed. Sometimes I’m proud. Sometimes I just don’t want to fight. There have been times when I have confessed things to my wife, and it didn’t go well. There has been a lot of yelling, name calling, disappointment, and hurt feelings over the past five years. However, there has also been healing and restoration of trust.
Listening to confession can be equally as hard. The best advice I can offer, having experienced different sides of confession, is to respond wisely. Try not to react quickly out of emotion. You may need a minute, an hour, or even days before you feel you can respond to your partner’s confession in a loving manner. The bible tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). That’s easier said than done, but also very wise when approaching confession. Listen fully, and take the necessary time to process so that you can respond with love and compassion.
Kate and I are both broken in different ways, and we both have issues we have to constantly work on, but one thing we will always agree on is that by confessing our sins to one another we can truly be healed and set free from the power of sin over our lives. If you’re married or in a relationship, I challenge you both to be bold and confess your sins to one another. Ask God to prepare your heart and your mind for whatever you’re about to hear from you significant other and to be ready to respond to their confession with love. Once you have both confessed, take however much time you feel is necessary to process, pray, and seek guidance from a mentor, pastor, or another believer. Set a time to come back together and address each other’s confession. This is where healing can begin. With God at the center of your relationship, and of these confessions, restoration is possible.
Is there something you need to confess to your spouse? If so, what is keeping you from making this confession? How can you take the first step toward confession today?
Ask God to give you the strength to confess your sins to your spouse and accept any consequences without bitterness or regret. Ask God to prepare your spouse’s heart ahead of time, replacing anger, fear, and judgment with peace, love, and grace.