He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. Proverbs 28, verses 13 and 14.
We’re tackling two verses together because together they make a stronger point. The two verses go well because they were meant to be together, one after the other, for all eternity. They are four contrasts lumped together into four clauses.
The first talks about how keeping secrets is destructive. It hurts to hold onto your junk. It ages you from the inside out, separating you from the people who matter to you. Worse, it separates you from God. God doesn’t cause calamities in our lives, but He does allow them to affect us so that we might turn to Him and know Him more. Those who conceal this truth, who deny it, don’t prosper. I can honestly say that the unhappiest people I’ve ever known are those who have held onto junk for far too long. If you’ve lived a life of addiction, low self-esteem, tears, envy, and malice, how good would it feel to have all that lifted off? We can’t do that alone. Alone, our tendency is to hide, conceal, cover up and keep trying to move forward. It’s hard to be healthy, though, when you’re sick inside. Concealing our junk keeps us sick.
Then comes the saving grace of confession and turning to a new way. Turning from a life of junk is liberating. It feels fresh, new, empowering, and humbling to have mercy poured on you. The beauty of mercy is that it is always cleansing. It washes away the shame and secrecy of hiding. When you have the weight of your sins lifted, you wonder how and why you carried them around for so long. Life doesn’t become a Pollyannaish bowl of cherries, but you see things in a different light. Instead of rolling through the roadblocks ahead, you begin to see them for what they are, then start to think of ways to avoid and go around them. Letting go of yesterday’s junk helps you to see that it’s a healthy thing to confess it and publicly renounce it. At least that’s how it worked for me.
Blessed is the person who always fears the LORD in everything they do: that’s the third clause. When you know the weight of sin and the lightness of merciful release, I believe you begin to understand that it takes something to hold onto the feeling. There’s nothing we do to make ourselves worthy of it, but He makes us worthy. Just like the mirror of mercy shows the ugliness of our sins, so, too, does the mirror of respect show us what can happen when we give up that respect. When we fear God, we understand how He is merciful and loving, and that to keep that mercy and love pure, He is holy. He won’t compromise His holiness – He can’t; it isn’t even in His nature – so with that holiness, love and mercy comes immense power. A thought from Him could wipe out the universe; a single breath could level a city. We should remember this and be mindful of it, bathing warm in knowing that He uses that power, instead, to reinforce His love in our lives. When that happens, is it any wonder that we would prosper? Nothing can stand against it.
Finally, there is the last part. NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Repeat it: NOTHING. From the outside acting in, nothing in this world can break us away from it. It’s super-glued onto our souls. From the inside acting out, however, that’s a different story. Your faith can’t be taken away, but you can give it up. Just as we can renounce our sins, so can we renounce our beliefs. People can believe in the power of knowledge and self to trump everything. Time and experience can change that. Is it any stretch, then, to think that we could willingly turn away from believing in God? Faith can’t be taken, but it can be surrendered. It takes a hard heart to do that. A gut check is needed, though: remember that we aren’t talking about moments of losing heart…unless we let those moments grow into more. This isn’t talking about flashes of anger, depression, or sadness. Those things can surely grow into a hard heart, but usually they pass.
I don’t know about you, but I need to know these things every day. Every day I struggle with the temptation to fall back into old habits and old sins, to do something new that I would conceal. It’s a daily battle and a foolish one because I know that nothing is hidden from God and that the people around me look at me closely. I know, too, that confession and renunciation do indeed bring mercy, that forgiveness feels like a warm bath to sore muscles. But I need to hear that my respect for the LORD is something that also blesses me with mercy, that He is a real presence in the hectic life I’ve made. And I need to know these things when the old angers well up, when I’m reminded of past sins, old feelings, a former life.
Do you need them too? Do you also need to be reminded that tender mercies are new every day? Nobody can make you feel bad about yourself, but God can make you feel spectacular. That’s another way of saying what these verses say. Feeling blessed feels spectacular. It is a full sensation of knowing you’re in favor, that you’ve been given something precious, that you’re special. A humble heart needs to know that ‘it’s not about me’ but even humble hearts, now and then, need to be reminded that God thinks they’re special and wonderful. In these days leading up to Christmas, perhaps that’s one of the lessons of the holiday as a whole.