Confession: It's good for the soul (and the body)!

Ikki Soma

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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 produces wonderful results. James 5:16

Can physical sickness be connected to unconfessed sin? I asked a friend who is licensed counselor what happens when we don’t confess our sins/offenses to God or to those whom we’ve offended. How does the guilt of unconfessed sin affect our physical bodies?

Excited, my friend spoke very rapidly as she answered my question. She rattled off a list of physical illnesses possibly connected to the guilt of unconfessed sin - hypertension, ulcers, heart disease, and depression. She told me that research shows that guilt affects our immune system.

The Bible has been saying this for thousands of years.

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, 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. Psalm 32:3-4 NLT

For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 NLT

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 NLT

In more than 20 years of ministry, I have seen what my counselor friend described happen right before my eyes. Before I go any further, let me clarify. I am not saying that ALL illnesses and diseases occur because of the guilt of unconfessed sin. But I have seen “mysterious” illnesses come upon otherwise healthy adults who refuse to confess their sin and seek forgiveness.

Every time we lie, slander, steal, cheat, or commit some other sin, if we don’t confess that sin to God and to the person we’ve hurt or offended, our guilt builds. That guilt burdens our soul and eventually affects our physical body. We can try to justify the sins we’ve committed, but that rationalization will do nothing to alleviate the guilt.

So how do we ease the guilt of sin? Psalm 32:5 and James 5:16 tell us that we must confess our sins to God and to those we’ve offended. The word “confess” (But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9) means to “say the same thing,” to name it what it is. If we’ve lied to someone, we call it a lie. If we cheated on a test, we call it cheating. This is not a general confession of “forgive me for the bad things I’ve done,” but a specific confession, “forgive me for lying to you about where I was last night.” The word “confess” in James 5:16 means to name out loud, the sins we’ve committed, to the person we’ve offended.

Confession takes humility. It can be uncomfortable, awkward, painful. But it will release the guilt of sin from our souls, possibly start the process of physical healing, change our hearts, and help us grow more like Christ. Now who wouldn’t want that? Confession truly is good for the soul - and the body.

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 produces wonderful results. James 5:16