When you’re suffering, it might seem a little harsh to be confronted about your sin. It would seem the last thing a weary and discouraged woman needs is a call to repentance. Encouragement is more what we’re looking for! And it is, in fact, needed.
It’s natural to feel that a thorough examination of our sin is harsh in the midst of difficult trials. No loving person would knowingly heap another heavy burden on someone already struggling to bear up under an unbearable load.
Yet, a true understanding of the Gospel changes our perspective about sin in the midst of suffering.
How the Truth Sets Us Free
John 8:32 tells us that the truth will set us free. This powerful truth applies here in 2 ways.
- The truth of the Gospel sets us free from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and the power of sin and death.
- The truth about our own sin – recognizing it and dealing with it right now, even in the midst of hardship – will set us free from carrying it along with our other burdens. Sin hinders our endurance when it’s not dealt with.
1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” If we deny or ignore our own sin, the truth – the very thing that will set us free – is not in us. We cannot experience true freedom without being honest about our sin.
The human tendency is to avoid our sin. But we’re only hurting ourselves when we live this way.
Here’s a guarantee: “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) That’s a promise. It doesn’t matter what your sin is, if you confess it, He will forgive it.
How can we be so sure?
We can be absolutely certain of this because that’s what the cross was for in the first place!
The Gospel is that Jesus, the Son of God, took all of our sin (mine and yours) upon Himself and He died on the cross in my place, in your place. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Why did He do that? Because sin requires punishment. It must be paid for. There is a penalty to be paid for all sin. (Romans 6:23) But because Jesus already paid the price for our sin, we don’t have to pay for it anymore. We can be free from the punishment for sin. (John 3:16-17)
Christians Need The Gospel, Too!
Sometimes we get so caught up in our routines, our busyness, our struggles that we become complacent where our sin is concerned. For Christians who’ve had a relationship with the Lord for a while, it’s easy to lose our sense of awe of Him and what He’s done for us. We forget the power of the Gospel and how relevant it is to us each and every day.
The Gospel should never become boring. When a pastor starts “preaching the Gospel”, let’s not tune him out thinking, “I know all this. I’m already a Christian. This doesn’t apply to me.”
That’s an absolute lie! Open up your ears and listen to that Good News! And then live it out!
To truly know and live out the Gospel in our lives as Believers means we understand daily our need for the Gospel. To understand our need for the Gospel means we recognize and acknowledge our sin.
Live In The Light
The reason we tend to deny or hide our sin is because our sin is ugly and shameful and we know it. God knows it, too. Yet He welcomes our confession so He can bestow upon us the forgiveness Jesus already earned for us.
Dealing with our sin removes barriers between us and God. It enables us to enjoy the intimacy with Him for which we were created.
Light exposes what’s in the darkness, so if we want to walk in the light, we need to allow the darkness in our hearts to be exposed. We must allow the Holy Spirit to reveal our sin to us so we can be free of it.
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” ( Proverbs 28:13)
“If we walk in the light as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Is Sin the Cause of My Suffering?
To be clear: I’m not saying that suffering is a direct result of your own sin.
Many times, suffering is not at all a result of your own sin. God’s heart does not desire for us to over-analyze, strive, and strain to find a sin in our hearts that we seem to be missing.
In my last read through the Bible, I was struck by this repeated phrase in Leviticus 4 & 5: “when he becomes aware of his sin” (NLT). God’s Law took into account that we sin unknowingly. God’s expectation was that the sin be dealt with when it became known.
- Do you have a heart that desires to be right with God?
- Have you asked the Lord to reveal any sin in your heart?
- Have you humbly asked a godly mentor about it?
- Have you repented of any sin you’ve been made aware of?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of those questions, but you’re still unaware of any other sin, take a deep breath. You can rest in the knowledge that you’re walking in freedom from sin. Your current suffering is not necessarily a result of your own sin. Don’t drain yourself looking for something that really and truly might not be there.
Freedom From Sin Helps Us Endure
In our suffering, we must not neglect to keep our hearts right with God. We must maintain a willingness to be convicted and corrected by Him. And when we are made aware of sin, we have the privilege of being able to repent of it and be set free from it.
Even in the midst of suffering, we must take the time to allow the Lord to examine our hearts and show us our sin. And when He does, we must confess it, repent of it, allow Him to wash us clean and restore us. We can pray Psalm 51:10:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
It can be simple. It need not over-burden us. It should not drain us. God doesn’t intend for us to “camp out” in the knowledge of our sin. Rather, He desires for us to live in light of the Gospel and to walk in the freedom He has bought for us.
Enduring suffering is much easier when we’re not weighed down with known sin. When our hearts are right with God, we can have the peace that comes from unbroken fellowship with Him.
Live It Out
- Read through the Scriptures that remind us of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 6:23, John 3:16-17. Spend some time praising and thanking God for the gift of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.
- Read Psalm 51. This is a prayer of repentance from David after he recognized the sin of his affair with Bathsheba and killing her husband.
- Ask the Lord to reveal to you any sin in your heart that you need to confess. If you’re struggling to do this, if you’re afraid of confronting what’s there, pray for strength and the willingness to do it.
- As you confess your sins, you can pray for the grace and strength you need to walk in repentance. Sometimes, repentance requires that we take some hard steps. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk in obedience to the Lord. But how sweet it is! Great are the rewards of that obedience and the richness of restored fellowship with Him!
- Use a concordance or a website like blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com to look up Scriptures about God’s forgiveness. Meditate on that precious gift and receive it! Don’t allow the enemy to suck you into condemnation.
I came across this post recently that really seems to articulate well the misunderstanding – and the Truth – that often surrounds the issue of sin and suffering. It might be a worthwhile read for you, too. Carry On My Heart