When it comes to learning a new skill, or developing some practice, it really requires the willingness to take a risk and go to places we have not been before. But fear of the unknown can hamstring us and be a significant barrier to our development as followers of Jesus. Any growth in Christian faith will require risk. Understandably, this is uncomfortable. Especially as we grow older and settle into certain routines and ways of life, we become used to being in control. Over time our comfort zone might shrink to encompass little more than the things we are good at, doing the activities that bring us a reasonable chance of success, and avoiding things that leave us vulnerable.
But God calls us to faith, which requires a real sense of dependence and the necessity of putting ourselves out there for him. So, hearing the biblical phrase “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16) may cause us to be anxious, nervous, or just downright scared. All of us, without exception, have our adverse circumstances, our trials, and our tribulations in this life. The perspective of the Apostle James is that coping and dealing with the things that trouble us and give us grief cannot effectively be dealt with apart from the church. Overcoming our troubles requires corporate involvement. The medicine that we need to deal with life is confession of sin and prayer. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but every good thing in the Christian life is accessed through the humility of confession.
It is part of the church leadership’s job to encourage, to listen to confessions, and to pray (James 5:14-15). The Apostle James clearly puts the burden on the needy person to share his/her need. You cannot expect others to read your mind or pick up on clues; you should take the initiative to seek prayer and encouragement. And you should not expect healing to happen if you do not admit your need for help.
In his book Invisible Men, psychologist Michael Addis tells the story about meeting a middle-aged man named Patrick. Although by all accounts Patrick was an easygoing, happily-married family man who ran a successful business, he had just tried to take his own life. After some prodding from Dr. Addis, Patrick finally divulged the events that led to his suicide attempt. His business had steadily slowed until he was unable to make the mortgage payment on their new house. Things went downhill financially from there. Then the economy crashed. Dr. Addis writes: “It was Patrick’s response to these events that really struck me. Rather than letting his wife and close friends know about the struggles he was facing, Patrick kept it all to himself. Over time, the gap between what people thought was going on in his life and what was actually going on grew larger, and Patrick became profoundly depressed. He couldn’t face working, but he also couldn’t face telling people how bad things had gotten …. Eventually the depression became so overwhelming that he saw no other way out. “How could I face them?” he asked. “What would they think of me? In their eyes I’d look like a has-been, somebody whose time had come and gone, only because he couldn’t handle it.” “But those were extremely difficult experiences you had,” I said. “Nobody could have foreseen the financial difficulties.” “I should have been able to. Besides, that’s not what I’m talking about. I should have been able to handle it emotionally. Instead, I fell apart and turned into a sniveling little boy. What was I going to say, ‘Oh, Mommy, please help me?’ I couldn’t let people see me like that.” On the one hand, it seemed obvious to me that no man would want to see himself like a little boy asking for Mommy’s help. But then if you stopped and thought about it, is asking for help worse than dying? How far will a man go to hide his shame? How many Patricks are out there who would rather [suffer alone] than try to break through the gauntlet of silence and invisibility that prevents them from finding the support they so desperately need?”
- Some Christians are emotionally suffering and mentally struggling because of their unforgiving spirit concerning some past event and are holding on to bitterness. They will not be well until they accept God’s prescription of confession and prayer.
- Some Christians are suffering in silence and experiencing physical ailments because of a stubborn refusal to admit need and obey the Scripture to confess sins.
- Some Christians are overwhelmed with life circumstances to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion because they are holding on to things that they think are important, but are not important to God.
- Some Christians have gone to doctors, counselors, and talked to everyone under the sun about their situation, but have not taken the Bible seriously through confession and prayer to deal with their problem.
- Some Christians are harboring secret sins and do not have victory over them because, even though they have prayed, their pride has stopped them from confession to others.
So what should we do? We should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed. This is the responsibility of every believer. God has not given a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). We can do this. I am praying for you, that your personal courage will result in confessing your sins to a trusted Christian person.