A few months ago, my husband and I were taking a walk around the bay near us and I watched a fish jump and create ripples through the water. It was a common enough image, but it reminded me of what I’d read that morning.
In the book of Joshua, there was a misunderstanding between the tribes of Israel. The West was prepared to go to war against the Eastern tribes, assuming they were forsaking the LORD and creating an idol. To make their point, they recall the story of Achan, a man of Judah who had disobeyed the Lord after Israel conquered Jericho, leading to the destruction of all his family and possessions: “Wasn’t Achan son of Zerah unfaithful…? He was not the only one who perished because of his iniquity’” (Joshua 22:20, CSB). Achan thought he was safe with his secret sin, but the consequences of his choices reverberated into his whole community, bringing special suffering to those closest to him.
To put it simply, a sin is any thought or action that disobeys the commands and ways of God. Sin insults His holiness, and as we see throughout the Old Testament, it cannot be tolerated. There is no way for a follower of Jesus to hold on to a secret sin without far-reaching consequences. God desires obedience from the heart, and holding on to secret sins means we are valuing our own desires over what God wants. He’s never going to let His children live happily ever after with their secrets that dishonor Him. Sometimes He responds to hidden sin obviously, but sometimes it’s subtle, a slow burn showing up in our lives as depression, anxiety and troubled relationships lasting for years because we’re blind to our own responsibility in the matter.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a woman of strong faith about a deeply held secret sin in her life. She had held onto this sin for over ten years, and never spoken about it to anyone. It had seemed like keeping the sin a secret was fine. However, soon she started listing the area of her life that were not “fine”: she’d dealt with chronic depression for much of her adult life, never really feeling happy in any circumstances, and many relationships in her life were painful and struggling: her marriage was full of tension, she regularly spoke harshly to her children, crushing their little spirits, watching the damage happen to those relationships and feeling powerless to stop it. She was seeing the effects of holding on to disobedience; her soul felt heavy and people she loved were suffering because of her sin. And God’s message to those holding on to sin is clear: “repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20, CSB). As she confessed her sin openly for the first time, the tears flowed and I could visibly see her countenance change. There was no more secret; she could start healing now.
Sometimes in counseling we get so focused on helping the client feel “better” that we forget to do a search for the cause of the distress in the first place. The cause could very well be chronic systemic inflammation wreaking havoc on your brain and body, but we also cannot discount the consequences of sinful choices that show up in our lives. Sin is a part of living in a fallen world; we won’t be rid of it until we no longer walk this earth. So then, feelings of distress should not cause us to panic and immediately assume we have some life-long incurable illness. Sin is cured by faith in Jesus. His Spirit gives us daily power over sin, so we are not conquered by it. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Our hope is in the power of Jesus’ blood, not our own strategies for mental strength or control. When the cause of our distress is hidden disobedience, no amount of vitamin B12 or probiotics or yoga or anti-depressants is going to take it away.
I know this won’t be my most popular post. Openly addressing sin, naming it and dealing with it generally isn’t something our culture is willing to do. Nobody wants to be “shamed” for their choices. The truth is, if you feel ashamed, it’s coming from a more spiritual place inside your own mind; no person can make you feel that way. But thankfully, when God is pursuing someone, He will make them aware of their sin in new ways, leading to a restlessness that can only be settled by coming to the foot of the Cross.
Does any of this sound familiar? Are there broken relationships in your life that you can’t seems to correct? Have you been dealing with depression or anxiety you can’t shake off? Take a minute and ask the Almighty God if you have a hidden sin you need to repent of so your life may be refreshed by His forgiveness
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