Psalm 32: Is Confession Good for the Soul?
“When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away. . . I acknowledged my sin . . . then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin.” (3-5)
It’s been said that confession is good for the soul, and this psalm would attest to that. The writer was afflicted with suffering. Knowledge of some past sin was haunting him to the point that he had become physically ill. As long as he held it in, he was tortured, wracked with guilt but when he told his sin to God, he found forgiveness.
This is the second of the penitential Psalms, but it is also a psalm of thanksgiving. The writer is thankful to God for the gift of forgiveness. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,” (1a) he states. He knows the gift of forgiveness, but in order to know this he had to first sin and recognize his sinfulness. “It can no doubt be ‘a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb. 10:31), but it is a worse thing to fall out of them,” as one commentator states (Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, p. 170). The psalmist had fallen out of God’s hands through his sin. How great his delight to return to God through confession. The psalmist then instructs the reader to not be stubborn like a mule but to turn to God for forgiveness in order to experience what it is to be “blessed.”
Surely confession is good for the soul, but first there must be recognition of what needs to be confessed, then there must be genuine remorse. It isn’t enough to admit to a wrong doing. In the news this week has been Lance Armstrong’s confession that he had used drugs during his years of competition. He finally admitted to what he had done but he claimed he was just doing what everyone else was doing. He justified his actions. So, was this confession good for his soul? It is not for us to judge what is in his heart, that is for God – best to leave it there.
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go,” the king in Hamlet states after an unsuccessful attempt at prayer. (Hamlet, Act III, sc. III) He knew he had sinned but wasn’t willing to do what was necessary to make amends, to admit to what he had done and give up his ill-gotten gain. And so he remained in his sin.
Perhaps the greatest sins are the ones we refuse to see, sins of excessive pride, greed, justifications for hording the world’s goods, walking away from those in need. None of us are perfect; therefore all of us are in need of God’s forgiveness. Perhaps our prayer needs to be that God will help us see when we have fallen short of the mark for by ourselves we remain blind. Then our confession will bring the healing and forgiveness we need.
Copyright Robertson January 2013