My wife has been reading through a wonderful book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss entitled Choosing Gratitude. She is actually teaching a group of women from our church on the subject tonight. It has led to some good discussions between us recently about the relationship between trust and honesty. Or as I suggested to her, “How do you cry grateful tears?” Most of us tend to lean in one direction or the other. We either minimize our present circumstances in an effort to convince ourselves, others, and even God Himself that we have a strong faith, or we cry out in what David Powlison describes as raw honesty. One approach neglects the reality of life in a fallen world and the other neglects the reality of a sovereign Creator against Whom no clay pot may shake its fist.
Here are some of my own thoughts recently on being “sorrowful and yet always rejoicing”, on crying grateful tears . There are four great confessions the Christian must make in one form or another as we pour out our hearts to God and one another. These confessions are no secret. We see them flavored throughout the Psalms and usually come in a similar order as I set forth below.
First, confess who God has revealed Himself to be. Time and time again God reminded His people, Israel, that He was the God who brought them out of slavery, out of the land of Egypt. This truth revealed much about the nature of the God this small nation was to trust and obey. He was mighty to save and willing to save. In the midst of our cries, let us first cry out the unchanging truth of who God has shown Himself to be. The One who has made Himself known to us, particularly in the person of Jesus, is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Second, confess your own sinfulness. Jeremiah Burroughs, a great Puritan pastor, writes, “A Christian comes to contentment, not so much by getting rid of the burden that is on him, as by adding another burden to himself…to labour to load and burden your heart with you sin; the heavier the burden of your sin is to your heart, the lighter will the burden of your affliction be to your heart” (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment). Confess the sin of grumbling, of taking His many mercies for granted, of neglecting the means He has provided to comfort and strengthen you. Confess the sin of wanting to know more than has been revealed by Him of your present condition. It was Adam and Eve in the garden who stretched out their hands in desire to have a greater knowledge than had been given at the time.
Third, confess your weaknesses. Being tired or burdened by pain or impoverished for friendship,is are not sins to be confessed. Rather, they are some of the many weaknesses that we experience in this life as a result of sin. Our parent’s high rebellion against God’s glorious kingdom brought with it the terrible disease that always comes with war. We are all born into a world clothed in a fleshly body weakened by sin’s enduring presence in the world..
Fourth, confess the promises of God that are now yours because of Jesus Christ. Are you heavy laden with sin? Jesus took upon Himself those terrible sins so that they would no longer hold the power to crush you under the weight of God’s wrath. Those sins that once would have condemned you to death are now just heavy enough to make you stronger in grace.and fit for glory. Those sins that once made you an enemy of God, forming as it were great clouds to block out the countenance and favor of God upon you, have been removed so that His face smiles with a fatherly affection upon His adopted sons and daughters. Those weaknesses that frustrate and plague you at every turn are the very weaknesses that the Son of Glory humbly took upon Himself. He bore our weaknesses as surely as He bore our sins. If Jesus has taken our sins and our weaknesses fully, then He has done so that we might be given by the Father a robe of righteousness and an everlasting inheritance.