5. Helpful Practices

CONFESSION

I used to think confession was reserved for those big, bad mistakes.  Like it was the appropriate response to some great moral failure.  Consequently, I didn’t practice confession as a regular part of my faith journey, something I am now learning is an invaluable pathway to peace…

Confession is an acknowledgement of sin, but our culture doesn’t believe in sin anymore. Still, sin lies at the root of our destructive habits and negative thought lives… We cannot deny our own fallibility and capacity for wickedness for long before there it is, staring us in the face!  But if we don’t own and take responsibility for our sin, how can we find forgiveness and peace from the fallout of our mistakes?

“Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” (Psalm 32:5, NLT)

In Psalm 51, David shares some powerful moments of confession.  He models a type of confession that does include those big moments of epic failure, but more than that, David acknowledges and owns the deeper more pervasive problem of being born a sinner.

Confession is sprinkled throughout many of David’s writings as a key ingredient to a dynamic relationship with God.  Through it, he owns and expresses his weakness and true dependence on God, adhering to the truth that You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Psalm 16:2, ESV).

“Prayer is a confession of one’s own unworthiness and weakness.” – Mahatma Ghandi

I think our culture believes that to own my sin, or to take responsibility for it, I am invoking a life of judgment and condemnation.  But I find that, in Jesus, it is quite the opposite.  To own my sin, and confess my weakness, pride, selfishness, hard-heartedness, etc. on a daily basis invokes the mercy of God into my life and leads to peace. 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1, ESV)

Practice: Practice praying short honest prayers of confession to God each day.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), but lean into God’s mercy and discover peace of mind as you are set free from the guilt that plagues us as a result of our hidden sin. 

He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12, NLT)

THANKSGIVING

It is so against my nature to be thankful in the midst of suffering.  Thankfulness can feel so trite, so put on, so inauthentic.  And yet, thankfulness has a way of leading my mind toward contentment and deep satisfaction.

David constantly praised God with a heart of thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is one of the primary ways in which He leads Himself in worship and turns his heart toward hope.

Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention. (Psalm 42:5, NET)

Thankfulness awakens me to my own reality and grounds me in a truth that would otherwise slip by unnoticed behind the many screens of business, distraction, and media entertainment.  It buffers my pain with a silver lining and clarifies my circumstances with a bird eyes view.

It is not normal to live satisfied in our society.  Thankfulness feels like wrapping oneself in a warm blanket of contentment, breathing deep satisfaction into the soul.

Practice: Practice thankfulness for a few minutes every day and learn to lead yourself in worship the way David did.  He knew how to lead his soul to a place of deep contentment and satisfaction in light of one overarching truth: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. (Psalm 118:1, NLT)

ACCEPTANCE

Many people are familiar with the Serenity Prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

This prayer connects with a basic human struggle… How do we accept those things that haunt us?  How do we make peace with circumstances that nag us, but lie beyond our control to change?

When I am not confessing, or honestly owning up to my sin, I find it hard to accept myself, my past, my loved ones, and the circumstances in which I find myself…  When I am not practicing thankfulness, I get stuck in the desperate neediness of my situation…

Confession and Thanksgiving help me get to a place of healthy acceptance, where I can see myself and my life in perspective, making peace with those things I cannot change, and discerning those things I can.

There is a real tension, though, between acceptance and faith.  How do we know when to accept a failed relationship vs. when to keep fighting?  In the case of a dying loved one, how do we know when to stop praying for healing and start preparing for the worst?

Acceptance finds its greatest victory when we have made peace with our own human limitations, and released those things outside of our control, while submitting to a good and Almighty God, who is in control, and who is writing His story of redemption over every loss and defeat we experience in our lives.  

We can accept raw circumstances and human weakness without losing hope in a good and all-powerful God.

“True humility is always accompanied by great faith in God.” Graham Cook

Practice: Practice acceptance by acknowledging where your reach for control ends… This is learning good healthy boundaries, understanding what you are in charge of and what you are not, what you are responsible for and what you are not.  And accepting your place as a finite human being can fuel your faith in the One who reigns over all.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.  (Psalm 27:11-13, NLT)

HOPE

God is writing His story of redemptive beauty in each one of our lives.  The trials and difficulties we face don’t have to lead us into negativity and hopelessness, anger and doubt.  But they can sharpen our self-discipline, refine our character, and lead to hope… hope in a future we never dreamed possible.

Confess your sins.  (Psalm 32:5)

Give thanks to God. (Psalm 118:1)

Accept the things you are powerless to change. (Psalm 27:11-13)

And invite the God of hope into your story to make His mark of goodness and redemption to bear on your life! (Psalm 37:34)

Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honor you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.  (Psalm 37:34, NLT)

Choosing Life in the Mind:

Step 1: Choose my destination and commit to the journey.
Step 2: Trust God as a safe place for my soul.
Step 3: Learn honesty and awareness in the presence of God.
Step 4: Let love win over fear.
Step 5: Practice confession, thanksgiving, acceptance, and hope
Coming – wrap up VIDEO

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