A powerful invitation to embrace the opportunities, indeed, the requirement for honest self-assessment, and dealing with the dark issues that cloud our experience, and cast a shadow over our peace of mind.

Until confession comes to David – and to us – there is no peace.


DAVID (8) Confession is good for the soul.


Psalm 32.

Would you like to dance?


For almost a year now

He had lived with his guilty secret.

The knowledge of what he had done…

The terrible thing he knew he had done…

burned through his peace of mind like prussic acid.

He could hardly sleep.

His dreams were the savage confused, troubled dreams

of a tortured spirit.

That he, a man in a position of trust

Should have done such a thing!

Betrayed his high office

betrayed everything he claimed to believe in!

Had capitulated so easily, shamelessly to his desire!!


And then, in fear of discovery,

had committed the cruel despicable murder

of an innocent man…

The full horror of it all

gnawed ferociously as his soul.


So that, when God’s brave and honest prophet, Nathan,

challenged him with the truth -

it was almost a relief…

to bring to the surface

the stinking putrefaction of his past actions:

So that,now, it could all be faced;

Something could be done about

the guilt that was destroying him;

guilt that had lodged so long

In David’s heart.


It was out in the open now.

He faced who he was:

admitted who he was,

what he had done…

And release from the chains of guilt

became a possibility.


Living with unresolved guilt

is destructive, relentless and punishing!

And David, in the psalm we read,

describes it with all the passion and anguish

of a man who has had his spirit torn and ravaged

on the rack of unresolved guilt.


The effect of guilt is shattering.

It destroys relationships,

insinuating itself, intruding itself

into the spirit of genuine trust and honesty,

wreaking havoc in the emotions.


In his poem of faith,

David vividly describes the emotional tension

as his guilt works itself out

in his inability to be a peace with himself…

to like himself very much…


The unresolved reality of what he has done

puts him on his guard against people

“who might discover the awful truth…”

And it is awful!!

And, each day, he finds a new way

to disguise the truth

to cover up…

and sustain the pretence;

The sheer effort of all this posturing and deceit

is exhausting…

He knows it’s a lie…

that buried deep beneath the veneer

is a darkness that is terrible to behold,

a shame too grim to speak…

It wears him down.

It is relentless.

He feels the strain

And it exhausts him.


 “When I did not confess my sin…

I was worn out from crying all day long…

My strength was completely drained –

As moisture is dried up by the summer heat.”


And because people are that complex blend of body mind and spirit – because each part affects the others – there are physical expressions of the stress, the guilt, the fear…

the emotional strain finds physical manifestation. 

Just as our unstoppable tears are the symptoms of the sorrow we feel…when unresolved guilt haunts our souls, souring our whole experience - we look worried, we age quickly, we grow tense

and the tension can lead to pounding headaches, listlessness, and all the outward physical symptoms of what is essentially an inner problem.

Nervous tension can lead people to drug- related rescue strategies - which for a time might appease the problems - but in truth do little to deal with the deep-rooted cause of our unease.

The past with its failures, regrets, and mistakes

seems still able to wound us

and to cripple us emotionally…

and occasionally physically,

in the present

and to steal from us…

the good possibilities of our future.


And because there is a relationship that is fundamental

to our well-bring- our serenity-

namely, our relationship to God

the power beyond us

the loving Father -

under whose gaze we live our life –

our guilt gets in the way of that relationship working well.


And, as men and women have done

since time began,

we run,

and hide:

in order to escape the searching light of his truth.

With guilt rotting away in our soul

we choose

either the route of

avoidance –

staying clear of God and all things godly altogether…

sometimes for years!!

Shutting the door to prayer

Stepping back from true fellowship

For fear of exposure, disclosure, discovery.


Or we opt for the way of hypocrisy!

trying to keep our life in convenient little compartments:

hoping that our guilt in one area will not somehow

spill over

or infect the rest of our experience.

Either way, the effect on our peace of mind

the honesty of our relationships

is corrosive and destructive.


The things that generate that unsettling guilt need not be

gigantic, dreadful deeds, or derelictions that litter our past…

It may simply be that we feel deeply conscious of the fact that we haven’t given God his rightful place in our thinking, or our living…that we have neglected the relationship that lies at the deepest part of us…given him second or third best…skipped over our true obligations to him and his will: been deaf to his call.

So that mention of his name, the challenge of his summons

sends us scurrying away,

resentful that we have been reminded at all

that he calls us to worship and to serve him

with wholehearted commitment…

Whatever generates that dis-ease in us…the effect is consistent.

It damages our spiritual connections:

It puts a wall between ourselves

and the people who matter to us:

It encourages us to live a lie…

And, in the process, plays havoc with our peace of mind!

And sometimes with that….it undermines our physical well-being as we wrestle with the internal contradictions - and as our heart is weighted down by the burden of guilt. 

We truly have a heavy heart,

knowing that there are unresolved issues. 

We are afraid of discovery and exposure.

We stop liking ourselves very much.


All this is in tune with how David experienced the icy chill of unresolved guilt in his life. 

He knew all the elements in the torment,

and he writes with disarming honesty and clarity

about the horror of pretending to be, what he knows he is not.


The psalm is written in such a way that you can almost hear the sigh of relief – feel the burden being lifted from aching shoulders..

“Then I confessed my sins to you.

I did not conceal my wrongdoings.

I decided to confess them to you,

And you forgave all my sins!”


Like opening a window to let the smell out, and the fresh air in…confession changes everything…

Confession is the beginning of healing.

For with confession to God…against whom all sin is done…

comes forgiveness…Forgiveness guaranteed and free.


It’s easy to see how this works…

why confession is the pre-requisite of forgiveness…

why confession is required

before forgiveness can be enjoyed…

Until need is acknowledged;

Until the problem is admitted;

Until the mistake is accepted;

There can be no remedy…

No improvement to the situation!!

We remain stuck in the delusion

That “all is well, we’re doing fine…

What’s the problem…?”


We are the problem.

Our sin is the problem…

And until we face that …acknowledge that

the forgiveness that God waits to pour into our hearts

is blocked and stymied…


More healing forgiveness that we can imagine or ever need…

is there for us…

But as long as we are stubborn in our resistance to it…

it can never reach us where we hurt.

We need to connect our lives to it…

We need to know we need it….


And the act of confession is the starting point

of that refreshment, and that restoration.

Stubborn denial of guilt leaves us locked in the past,

means we never know the sweetness of the cure,

because we are so busy protesting that there is nothing wrong with us…nothing troubling us, thank you very much.


But when we take the offer…

with that healing forgiveness

comes freedom from the need to hide.

We can,

because of the free love and grace of God,

escape from the self- delusion,

from the trap of our puny self-justifications and falsehoods:

And the relationship is restored between our self and our God…


Because we know his love is ours to have and to delight in

we are no longer afraid of him:

Because his truth has been brought to bear

hard though that might be –

(Was sure to have been!!)

we are nonetheless liberated from the hypocrisies

the deception…

the fear of being found out!

And that is a delicious freedom.


The praise we offer is the expression of that liberation…


How could we sing if our hearts were made of stone?

How could we rejoice when we knew that around our neck

invisible to others – but very real to us…

hung the albatross of our guilt,

mocking our puny attempts at praise…

threatening to expose their emptiness…?


But now, sin confessed and sin forgiven…

our inadequacies acknowledged…our need embraced

we receive healing of the past

from the only one who truly can dispense that healing.

And, in the light of that amazing grace,

we throw off the shackles,

we leave the dingy dungeons of our anxieties,

and we feel the sun of his welcome on our face…


People need to understand that!

When we sing…we Christians…

we praise God and express in song action and celebration…

our deliverance!!

This is who we are Sunday by Sunday…day by day…

not folk who have come here to demonstrate to the world

our self-righteous sense of our own goodness…

We are here…fellow-sinners…

whose guilt has been removed…

whose sin is forgiven…

and who therefore…rejoice in the one who, by his love,

makes this peace of heart possible…

brings us release from the chains of the past.

·      No more burdens…

·      No more dark rooms of the inner life…

·      where no one- not even God - is allowed to enter…

·      No more masks…and disguises and dishonesties…


Hear it again,

that glorious sigh of relief….

“ Then I confessed my sin to you….”


And from that…

David got for mourning




Would you like to dance?



© 2018 Belhaven Church. The Church of Scotland - Scottish Charity number SC011353