Psalm 32:3-5 “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
Judgment Day will be a big problem for those who live in their sin and will not repent. But for those who still have a conscience, the hand of God’s judgment today may be all of his judgment we will ever know. David says this was true for himself when he kept silent about his sin. That does not mean there is some virtue in merely talking about it. I know a man who was struggling with sexual temptation. He spent many hours talking about it to secular counselors only to be told there was nothing wrong with what he was doing. It was natural. He should not feel guilty. Eventually they convinced him that it was okay. He would have been better off keeping silent in that case.
I have been around people boasting about their sins– locker room talk of sexual conquest, people celebrating their drunken foolishness, proud purveyors of petty theft. The sinful acts are bad enough. It would be better if they kept it to themselves.
But the kind of silence David refers to here is the stubborn silence of unrepentance. We refuse to acknowledge our sin, and we try to act like there is nothing wrong.
Because God loves us, he will not let us live in the delusion that nothing is wrong. The little voice of conscience speaks for him, telling us we are wrong, warning us that we are in danger. It may not be a loud voice, but it is persistent. It will not let us forget that God condemns what we have done.
Then the real misery sets in. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” The constant tension created by guilt makes us ache all over– head aches and muscle aches and joints that ache, right down to our bones. It is hard work carrying this guilt around. It saps our strength thinking about it all the time, always worrying about what God is going to do to me, always wishing my stupid conscience would shut up. Like Poe’s telltale heart, it pounds out a steady beat of accusation: “You’re the one; God is mad; No excuse; Can’t escape.” All of this misery is just a foretaste of the heavier hand of God’s judgment to come.
Yet there is an escape for those who repent. “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’–and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” For those who have received God’s forgiving word with faith, the deliverance is immediate. There are no fines and penalties that must first be paid. There is no community service to fulfill. We confess and God forgives. The guilt is lifted.
Pastor Curtis Lyon once told of a woman with whom he counseled whose guilt was driving her to paranoia and making it impossible for her to sleep. For weeks she had been taking anti-anxiety medication, and still she could not sleep. The first time he led her to lay down her guilt at the cross to take hold of forgiveness, her anxiety immediately disappeared. In fact, the medication she had been taking suddenly became far too much for her, and she practically fell asleep in his office that very afternoon.
God’s word of forgiveness delivers us from his judgment even now, ending the misery caused by our guilt.