On my first trip to America I spent some time in the state of Connecticut. As soon as I arrived my hosts sat me down and told me a story of a kid they knew who had found a tiny red bump on his upper thigh. He was embarrassed to let anyone see it and, since it didn’t hurt or itch, he didn’t tell anyone about it. Then the spot became tender and painful. But he still didn’t tell anyone. When the sore turned into a rash, he decided it was time to tell someone, but he procrastinated.
The rash then subsided, and he was relieved that he hadn’t told anyone. A few days later he felt an ache in his knee. He didn’t think anything of it. Then the ache appeared in his elbow. He still didn’t tell anyone. When he broke out in a fever and chills his parents rushed him to a doctor.
The physician asked the boy specifically if he had noticed a rash, bump, or any joint pain. He now felt embarrassed about not having mentioned this to his parents earlier and so he denied having experienced any of the symptoms.
The doctor prescribed medication to suppress flu symptoms and assured him he’d be better in a few days. The boy died. The cause of death was a bacterium, borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted by deer ticks, but the boy could have easily been cured with a common antibiotic had he reported the first symptom, a small red bump.
I was then informed that the disease was named after the town a stone’s throw away from us: a town called Lyme. “The moral of the story is,” my hosts grimly explained, “we don’t care where it’s located, if you see a little red bump on your body, you tell us immediately. Hiding the symptom will only make it worse.”
A relatively harmless disease can turn deadly if left untreated. And exactly the same can be said of what we think of as a relatively harmless sin, which is why the Lord wants us to regularly and speedily confess our sins and repent of them.
In Psalm 6 King David warns of the perils of unconfessed sin.
We see at least three symptoms in this Psalm.
1. Loss of divine pleasure
Psalm 6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
We can tell that the distance David feels from God is because of David’s sin. Though we don’t know which sin, David does, and he admits that his predicament is self-inflicted. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to bear. And when our predicament is our own fault, that doesn’t mean God will be slower to forgive.
But why is David worried about God’s anger and discipline? Isn’t David one of God’s chosen people? We understand that as a believer we cannot lose our salvation when we sin, but we can lose our sense of closeness with God, our peace of conscience, our desire and ability to pray, our experience of his grace.
As a Christian God’s approval in your life is the most valuable commodity you possess. It is the deepest joy and satisfaction in life. Don’t trade that blessing for the cheap, fleeting, deceptive, and insidious pleasures of sin.
2. Loss of physical strength
Psalm 6:2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me [restore my strength], O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
The burden of guilt can literally make you sick. One of the leading causes of death in the world is generically labeled as “stress-related disease.” Stress is a modern word for anxiety that is often rooted in not trusting God, or from the weight of guilt, or from the worry of being caught in sin.
And this sin-induced stress can beget physical symptoms such as headaches, backache, muscle cramping, stomach ulcers, upset digestive processes, acid reflux, and even heart attacks. I am not saying all those maladies are always a result ofguilt or sinful anxiety. But they can be.
Christians who confess their sins to their forgiving, merciful Savior enjoy a peace and tranquility that sets them apart from those who have no recourse to assuage their sense of guilt. A healthy spirit can contribute greatly to a healthy body.
3. Loss of emotional peace
Psalm 6:3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD- how long? … (6) I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. (7) My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
David’s body is not the only victim of his sin; his emotional well-being is under siege. A modern equivalent is what we call depression.
David feels overwhelmed by distress, fear, and anxiety. Today there is a multi-billion dollar industry that specializes in numbing our emotional pain and taking the edge off our grief. I am not talking about the alcohol industry, I’m pointing a finger at Big Pharma.
And yes, I know there are scenarios in which medication can be of service when dealing with emotions. But Satan has duped many into treating the symptoms of their despair by drugging themselves into a state of superficial happiness, which ignores the root cause of their spiritual problem.
Whether by alcohol, or narcotics, or prescription medication that alters your experience of reality, if you take something that short-circuits your God-given mechanism of emotional release, you are playing with fire.
When people tell me they have committed some sin and are feeling guilty, I say “Good. You feel guilty because you are guilty. You feel hopeless because you are hopeless. But that is a very good place to be. Now I can offer you hope of being free of that guilt forever by introducing you to Jesus Christ. Make right with him and you will experience the joy and confidence that he has designed for you.”
Then there is the wonderful confidence that comes from knowing your sins are forgiven.
Psalm 6:8-9 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer…
David has prayed his prayer and is now confident that it has been answered. He knows God is quick to forgive. David knows that since his confession was genuine and his burden lifted, he can stand up to his enemies with God on his side.
This is the hope that the gospel brings us. No matter how evil you are, no matter how guilty you feel, no matter what you have done, God will forgive you through the work Christ accomplished on the cross. He bore your guilt and offers you his righteousness so that when you trust him to save you, he does!
Do you suspect you have a case of spiritual Lyme disease? Do you notice the early symptoms of sin in your life? Don’t keep your sin hidden, bring it to the light.
Come clean today. Confess your sin to your spouse, to a friend, to your home group leader, to your pastor. Ask God for forgiveness and he will wash you, heal you, and clothe you in the pure white garments of his Son’s righteousness. Or you can cover up the little red bump of your sin and hope for the best.