When I Got Tired of Hiding My Sins

Written By Dorothy Norberg, USA

“The truth will find you out.”

When I was a small child, these words struck fear in my heart, because when my mother quoted them to me, it meant that even though she lacked sufficient proof to discipline me for my disobedience, she knew that I had sinned and was leaving my conscience to God.

This line from Numbers 32:23 was issued by Moses as a warning to Israel against violating their covenant relationship with God, but it also illustrates the general idea that even though we can bury the evidence of our sin and refuse to confess, we cannot escape the reality of our misdeeds.

When I read mystery stories, I always looked forward to the moment when the detectives would unmask a criminal. But in real life, I identified more with the criminal who hid his or her guilt, afraid of the moment when they would have to face the truth and its consequences. Nothing terrified me more than the thought of people seeing how bad I really was.

As I matured, I stopped wasting my mother’s time by lying about deeds that I had obviously done, but I sinned in other ways. People at church thought that I was a sweet girl, but at home, I was characterized by angry outbursts and disdain for others. When youth leaders praised me for my biblical knowledge and sterling character, I tried to convince them that I wasn’t nearly as godly as they thought, but they just chalked up points for my supposed humility, never understanding how bad I actually was. There was no way for me to convince people of my brokenness without shocking and alienating them, so I kept my public behavior up to the level of others’ expectations and felt like a total fake.

 

Confronting the Truth About Who I Am

I spent hours obsessing over my own perceived guilt and innocence, and this drew me even deeper into my lifelong interest in mystery stories. According to Hannah Anderson, who writes about how detective novels helped her discover the importance of truth in a chapter of her book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, readers gravitate towards this genre in search of “something that is more elusive in our real lives: certainty, truth, and resolution.” These are exactly the things that I was searching for—and yet at the same time was most afraid of.

Near the end of my teenage years, I devoured every single Agatha Christie mystery, enjoying the adventures of her famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, as well as those of her lesser-known detectives. Agatha Christie’s mysteries, published from 1920 to 1973, are famous for their ingenious twists and moral core; her detectives love justice and seek out the facts regardless of the personal or social costs.

As Hannah Anderson writes, “Pursuing truth requires more than knowing where the facts lead. It requires the honesty to actually follow them, no matter who they implicate.” When I reached the denouement of books where the murderer was a likable person or a love interest, I would inwardly groan, because I didn’t want it be them!

As I dealt with this fictional reality, I realized how much murder mysteries illustrate the truth of human depravity. We tend to assume the worst of unlikable people, while minimizing the sins of those who seem sympathetic, but we are all sinners, and our inner guilt doesn’t always manifest in our outward appearance. It pained me to think about characters that I cared about facing imprisonment or death because of what they had done, but this was the punishment that they had earned, and if the detective had not discovered their guilt, innocent people would have remained under suspicion.

The truth must come out, even when it is unpleasant, and seeing this reality at work in fiction encouraged me to be more courageous in facing the truth about myself. At the same time that I was reading a murder mystery a day, I became aware of red flags in my own life, recognizing that sin issues which I had ignored out of confusion and helplessness had become deep-rooted in my everyday habits and thoughts.

I could have spun stories about myself to ease the tensions between my problems and my ideals, but instead of looking for evidence to confirm a personal narrative, I held myself to the higher standard of truth that the best murder mysteries encourage, willing to deal with the facts in the most accurate, impartial way.

 

The Truth That Sets Us Free

I discovered that I was far worse than I had originally thought, and my feelings of guilt intensified. During this time, I became much less interested in explaining my sins away, because what I needed was forgiveness, not a better narrative.  This sense of desperation drew me back to a verse that I had memorized as a child: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

I clung to this promise, knowing that even though it was excruciating for me to reevaluate my life and face up to my sin, God would not leave me in the depths of my depravity. He promised to cleanse and purify me, and all I had to do was confess and reach for Him in faith.

“Truth is more important than my self-image,” I insisted, and as I accounted for the facts, faced reality, and moved forward in repentance, I learned what it means to be loved by a God who already knows everything about me (Psalm 139:1-5). The consequences that I had feared seemed paltry in comparison to God’s lavish grace, and I knew that His mercy had always been there for me, even during my worst moments.

As the psalmist writes, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). I was finally free to face the truth, and I knew what it felt like to be cleansed of my sin.

When I finally told people about my struggles, they responded with compassion and understanding, but my greatest relief came from the divine grace that I laid claim to in faith. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, I am cleansed of my sin and clothed in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and this frees me from the bondage of sin and from my old, constraining fear of reality.

At the cross, all that I am, and everything that I have done, is totally exposed, but even though this can be an excruciating thought, it guarantees that I will never have to defend illusions about my own goodness again. My sin will find me out, but the mercy of Christ will restore me, because the One who has always seen the whole truth chooses to love me anyway.

5 Things to Consider When You’re At the Crossroads

Are you at the crossroads? Does it feel like your entire future depends on the decisions you are about to make?

Perhaps it’s what school to attend, what subjects to study. Maybe it’s what job to take, or whether to leave a current job. Perhaps you are thinking about dating, or even marriage. What are the consequences of these decisions? How do we know what best to decide?

As you stand at the crossroads, looking forward to unknown futures, here are five things to consider:

 

1. What does the Bible say?

The Bible is given to us by God. It is the Word of God, and is sufficient in equipping us for whatever situations we might face (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

There are some situations the Bible speaks directly about. Adultery, for example, is clearly prohibited (Matthew 5:27-28). So is playing favorites (James 2:8-9). We’re also given guidance that can be applied broadly to nearly every decision we make. Be willing to forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). Love one another (1 Peter 4:8). Live your life in Christ, rooted and built up in Him (Colossians 2:6-7).

Does the Bible have clear teachings applicable to your current situation? If so, prayerfully follow the clear directions God has given us. If not, here are a few more things to consider. . .

 

2. Have you checked your motives?

As we deal with the uncertainties of the future, we must also carefully check our motives. We need to dig deep, and figure out what emotions are at play.

Are we leaning toward a certain decision because of fear? Are we going after something because we feel the need to keep up with our peers? Or are we trying to get back at someone because of something they did?

The Bible reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Let us pray and ask for God’s help and forgiveness as we confront any unhealthy, or even sinful motivations.

Whatever decision we ultimately make, let it come from clarity of mind, and purity of motive.

 

3. Are you praying about this?

Pray continually,” Paul reminds us (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How much more so when we face an unknown decision?

We can pray for a pure heart as we make decisions (Psalm 51:10).

We can pray for wisdom that God grants generously (James 1:5).

We can pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 14:26).

We can pray for courage to make a hard decision (Hebrews 13:6).

We can pray for peace amidst the unknowns (John 14:27).

We can also pray about the specifics of our decisions. After all, God knows all of our unknowns. And when we pray, we are reminded that God is with us. He will give us what we need to make the decision.

 

4. Have you sought godly counsel?

Christians were never meant to walk alone. We are “no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Ephesians 2:19).

We can certainly find brothers and sisters who walk with the Lord and have the insight and experience that we lack. Let us take advantage of that and seek out mature Christians we trust (Proverbs 12:15). They may be able to offer advice or perspective we have not yet considered. And more importantly, they can join us in prayer. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

 

5. Do you trust God’s foresight?

Finally, let us be reminded that while we don’t know how things will turn out, God does. Though we may make the best decision possible under the circumstances, we cannot foresee all the potential implications of it.

And that’s okay. God knows our shortsightedness. He knows our limitations. And He’s accounted for them. Whatever we end up deciding, whichever path we end up taking. . . God already knows. He will walk with us every step of the way, and He will work things out in His own time (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Don’t Waste Your Waiting

Written By Jalen Galvez, Philippines

In 2016, my mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.

When I heard the news, I couldn’t help but ask God why. There were many questions in my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. It was hard for me to face the situation that my family and I were going through, because it was something that we didn’t expect. Of course, my faith was shaken too. Why did it have to be my mom?

Waiting is hard, especially when we don’t know what the outcome of our prayers would be. I struggled a lot during that time, because I desperately wanted an assurance from God Himself that there was a reason and purpose for all this. I doubted Him, because I didn’t know when and how God would answer my prayers. That’s the hardest part of waiting. But as I continually sought God through prayer and His Word, He helped me realize that He was working as we waited.

Days after we found out about my mother’s condition, I was doing my personal devotion at the school library as usual. I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me through His Word, and proceeded to read my Bible. That day I happened to be reading Luke 8:40-56, where Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter. In Luke 8:50, Jesus comforts Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

Upon reading this, I was instantly comforted. I truly felt that perhaps God would heal my mother! More importantly, I was reassured that God would work through this situation and comfort us as we keep out gaze fully focused on Him—and we needn’t be afraid of our circumstances or what might happen in the future.

 

There Is A Purpose to Our Waiting

I’ve learned that in every season of waiting, God has a purpose. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Our trials require us to live and depend on the grace that God provides. Through this experience, I’ve learned that every waking hour is God’s grace to us. As I opened my heart to His Word and grew in my love for the Lord, I was assured that no matter what happens, I can hold firm to the knowledge that God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

While we wait for Him to work in our lives, it is an opportunity for us to grow our patience, stretch our hearts, and surrender our lives to God. I first surrendered my life to God in 2012, when I became a Christian and was baptized. During this difficult time, I’ve had to remind myself again and again, “Hey, you’ve surrendered your whole life to Jesus, so He’s got this one covered.” I had to consciously remind myself, whatever happened, I could still put my faith in God.

Waiting is not wasting. While we pray for our desires to be answered, let us keep our eyes open to the greatness of the Lord. God’s time table might be different from ours. His plans do not need our approval. Even if we don’t know how our prayers might be answered, let us be assured that God is working behind the scenes.

Even when we feel like we are drowning in an ocean of fears, worries, and sadness, let us be reminded that God knows what He is doing with our lives. Sometimes it is only when we go through deep waters that we can look up to the One who can save us from drowning—Jesus. All that He requires of us to wait on Him with child-like faith, trusting that He is a Father who cares deeply about our lives.

My mom is currently undergoing oral chemotherapy. This is an answer to prayer, since our family hoped that she could avoid intravenous chemotherapy. This is her last session of oral chemotherapy. While she hasn’t been declared cancer-free yet, we sincerely hope that she will be fully healed! But regardless of what happens, we trust that God is in control and will be with us every step of the way.

Your grace is the only thing
That keeps me through
And patiently,
I will wait for You.

3 Ways to Shield Your Mind

Written By Debra Ayis, Nigeria

Every day, we are bombarded with information that’s readily available at our fingertips. From the TV, social media, and other fora, it is next to impossible to shield one’s self from the swirling voices surrounding us. To make matters worse, it can be difficult to adequately filter what information we allow ourselves to consume even when we make a mindful decision to do so.

However, I’ve learned that it’s vital to curate what I allow my mind to be exposed to, as the information I consume shapes my thought processes and perceptions in life.

For instance, when I worked on human trafficking issues at my job, I developed a network of friends, both professional and personal, who were experts in or passionate about these issues. I read articles, essays, attended conferences, and wrote research papers on the subject.

I also aligned myself with organizations such as A21 and participated in “walks for freedom”. I even wrote poetry on human trafficking. In summary, I was fully invested. This passion, which eventually led to me being an expert in my organization, would not have developed if I had not intentionally fostered its growth in all areas of my life.

As Christians, many of us long to be passionate about the things of God. Our desire is to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). We want to think about whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, and anything that is excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). If that’s what we desire, shouldn’t we be ready to make sacrifices to build a life that is conducive for our passion for God to grow uninhibited?

What does this look like? Personally, no matter how hard I try to customize the news topics I receive on Google or Apple news, the curated result always leaves me a bit disappointed—and I find myself being drawn to articles that leave me depressed or upset after reading them. This doesn’t even include the way social media has the propensity to suck us into a seemingly endless supply of information that we wouldn’t necessarily choose to engage with through its algorithms and auto-play functions.

So how do I keep my mind pure and free so I can stay focused on God? How do I make Philippians 4:8 a reality in my life?

I wish I could say that I have it all sorted out, but alas, I am still a work in progress. However, I have found three effective ways to be more mindful of what I am feeding my mind everyday:

1. Put on the right armor

I am a Christian, which means my body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Just as we eat healthy food for the sake of our physical bodies, we must also feed our minds the right food to keep it pure. The Bible reminds us what that food is—every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So, I try to start and spend my whole day with God—staying in constant communication and communion with Him. I read and study the Word daily. Sometimes I listen to Christian music while working. On social media, I follow a ton of inspirational speakers, Bible apps and devotions, so that’s what pops up on my feed. I pray while walking around from place to place, and I ask for God’s advice on issues I face as my day unfolds.

This fortifies me against invasive information more than any other measure I can think of. I find that when I seek to stay in communion with God, I spend my day thinking about Scripture—the things of God and how to apply them—leaving less room for other thoughts and information to take root in my mind.

2. Avoid the battles you can

I often consider the adage “garbage in, garbage out”, and choose to steer far away from gossip and slander on the news. I unfollow social media accounts and stay away from music, movies or TV shows that aren’t morally sound.

Instead, I find alternatives that serve as a respite from the mainstream. There is a huge library of Christian artists in every genre that produce high-quality, godly music that gives secular music a run for its money in terms of quality, creativity, and even “dance-ability”!

 

3. Find trusty comrades

Even though a lot of our interactions with others take place online these days, it’s important to develop strong friendships in person. After all, iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). So, I am careful with the type of friends I keep and limit my inner circle to those whose value system aligns with Scripture.

Recently, the Spirit was leading me to pray about a certain issue in my life, but I wasn’t really sold out on it. Then the next morning, my friend sent me a verse on the same issue I had a prompting to pray about! It helped reinforce the need for me to stay mindful of the issue and pray about it. I was grateful to have a friend who was willing to obey God’s leading to share that verse with me, thus keeping me focused on what God required of me in that moment in time (Proverbs 18:24).

In the same way, I try to make sure that in all my interactions with others, my words are filled with grace, and build and encourage others (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:29). For me, it’s all about meeting people where they are at and letting God’s light shine through me so that they are drawn to Christ (Matthew 5:16)!

 

These three methods have helped me become tremendously mindful in streamlining and curating the sort of information I consume from day to day. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well. Above all, the most important measure or guide on who or what we should allow to influence our lives can be found in the Bible, so I hope you continue to dig deeper into God’s Word, even as I endeavor to do same.