Click here to download a pastoral prayer written by Michael Yandell on the Soul Repair Center website.
Confession of sin has several distinctions;
- To God alone. When we sin, we can freely confess our guilt to God, against whom we have sinned. (Psalm 32:3-6, 1 John 1:19)
- To our neighbor. Because of something we have done or not done to our neighbor, we can seek forgiveness. (Luke 17:1-4, 2 Corinthians 2:5-10))
I find it interesting that David, the writer of Psalm 32, was a warrior who exhibited symptoms of PTSD and moral injury. As one reads his laments in Psalms 3, 6, 13, 22, 57, and 139, one gets the sense that David struggled physically, emotionally, and spiritually prior to confessing his sins. In Psalm 32, David states, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.” (verses 3-5)
We know from personal experience the negative effects of un-confessed sin. Just as important, confession opens us to the opportunity to experience more of God’s grace. Confession then should be a joy because of the rich benefits God showers on us.
Confession is not difficult. It is a process that requires preparation;
- Begin with prayer, placing yourself in the presence of God, our loving Father.
- Then review your life since your last confession; searching your thoughts, words and actions for that which did not conform to God’s command to love Him and one another. Take a moral inventory as Psalm 139 shares, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out everything that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (verses 23-24)
- Accept the blame. All too often, the biggest obstacle to our healing is us. Important consideration, we may not be 100% of the blame, but even if we accept a small percentage of the blame that is ours, we begin a journey toward healing of the soul.
FAITH COMMUNITY IMPLICATIONS
There are several important considerations for the faith community. First, the faith community can be an integral part of the healing journey through confession, however, a word of caution. At no time should the veteran be coerced into considering confession. Confession being a process requires that the veteran enters the journey when ready.
Second, we know that there are numerous differences in faith traditions as it pertains to confession. Even within Christianity there are differing understandings and practices to confession. For our purpose in this conversation, rather than focusing on our differences in confession let us celebrate the richness as we look at three components to confession that have a common thread. These could be helpful to veterans’ healing of their guilt and shame.
The components of confession can be;
- participated in as a part of corporate worship through the liturgy of prayers – (Corporate worship connects us to scripture, history, and each other. Corporate confession reminds us that none of us is without sin and we all are in need of grace. In Hebrew scriptures, a representative of the people would publicly confess sins on behalf of all the people. [Nehemiah 9:2-3]; New Testament scripture lacks texts about public confession. However, we see the practice of confessing to the person or people that the sin directly harms. [Acts 19:18 and James 5:16]) A corporate prayer of confession (click on for an example) about war and the culpability of each person (not just the veteran) could begin a healing process where the congregation and veteran become engaged, listen without judgment, and accept responsibility.
- offered to another person – (Doctor Larry Graham, Iliff School of Theology, added to our last conversation, PTSD, Guilt and Shame by offering a four step model which included, “name one’s reality in an emotionally truthful way to at least one trustworthy person.” I appreciate Dr. Graham including in the process another person. This person can be supportive as well as hold the veteran accountable.) Additionally, confession to another person is encouraged when a wrong has been committed against that person. When a veteran confesses to another person, I submit that this is a sacred act and must be kept in strict confidentiality. There can be healing in this process as we read in James 5, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (verse 16) A congregation could offer a veterans prayer support group where two veterans partner for mutual prayer and accountability. Additionally, a veterans peer to peer group affords the opportunity for veterans to share their story. This is confession done in community.
- accomplished individually – Finally, scripture provides the assurance that if we confess our sins to God, we will receive forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) We can do this through individual prayer, as we open our hearts to God. Congregations can model prayer life through its worship liturgy, classes on prayer, and offering opportunities for all to participate in prayer throughout the week.
Third, the faith community should use the rich traditions of liturgy respective to its particular theology, traditions, and history. Liturgy draws each of us into the story of God’s love for us and God’s faithfulness to us.
Forth, the faith community can emphasize the benefits of confession;
- spiritual direction
- forgiveness of sins
- experiencing abundant grace
Do you have stories of veterans realizing the benefits of confession? How did you pursue confession with the veteran? Do you have a veterans prayer support group?
Next month, we will look in some detail at the second component of the spiritual model to experiencing healing from guilt and shame, forgiveness. Until then, thank you for the conversation…