Day 8 | Unconfessed Sin = The Greatest Thief of Joy | by Vanessa LeRow

Unconfessed Sin = The Greatest Thief of Joy

By: Vanessa LeRow

I lunched with one of my dearest friends recently and as I looked at her through teary eyes I said, “I cannot find my joy. It feels elusive and intangible right now.”

My sweet friend and I walk in close community with one another. She has not only witnessed, but also shared some of my pain, grief, and loss of the past 18 months. It has been a hard road, to say the least. Too many times I’ve wanted to yell at the people on Instagram posting their Letterfolk boards and hand-painted pinterest-worthy signs that read, “We Can Do Hard Things” all while their perfectly manicured kitchens and perfectly obedient children serve as the back drop.

That’s cute.

But, it’s not my reality.

Currently, if we are keeping score, the Hard Things are winning by a margin of about 4,721 to zero. And, if the winner gets Joy as the prize, I come up short every single time.

My friend asked me tough questions that day at lunch—what spiritual disciplines are you using to find joy? What are you spending your time meditating on? What is your fear in this situation or that situation? Eventually landing on THE QUESTION: Who are you if this fear becomes a reality? Who are you if this dream dies in the wake of poor decisions? Who are you if everything you’re looking to for security falls apart? Who are you if everything you’re trying so tightly to control becomes the most outrageous, uncontrollable disaster?

Who are you then?

I didn’t know. I couldn’t answer.

This is what the LORD says—

Israel’s King and Redeemer,

The LORD of Heaven’s armies:

I am the First and the Last;

There is no other God.

Who is like me?

Let him step forward and prove to you his power.

Let him do as I have done since ancient times when I

Established people and explained its future…

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.

These prized objects are really worthless.

The people who worship idols don’t know this,

So they are put to shame.

Who but a fool would make her own god—

An idol that cannot help her one bit?

(Isaiah 44:7,9-10 NLT)

At best, I am a fool. More accurately, I am an idol-maker.

Nothing can steal our joy. We allow it to be taken. In my case, taken by idols. And, I didn’t even realize it.

One of the very first verses I ever memorized was: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength; AND Love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know that verse.

However, my effort to love other people became paramount to my effort to love Jesus. Slowly, I started loving the created MORE than I loved the Creator. I placed too much importance on my relationships with people in my life and their circumstances and choices. I placed my hope unfairly in their hands.

My lack of intimacy with Jesus created a void I tried to fill with feeble, fragile, and vulnerable substitutes. Inevitably, when those shaky substitutes unravel and break under the weight of my worship, my faith and my joy become shaky, too.

My unconfessed idol worship stood in the way of my joy.

Tim Keller says, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’”

I wrapped up my idols and identity in the same package thinking they would deliver strength and joy, but they delivered despair.

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,

Whose sin is put out of sight!

Yes, what JOY for those whose record

the LORD has cleared of guilt,

Whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

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.

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: 1-4

I’ve spent many hours over the past weeks confessing my sins to our Great God. Idols do not die easy, at least mine don’t. My situations and painful circumstances haven’t changed, but the beauty of Biblical faith is that God never asks you to deny your current reality. He asks you to hold your current reality up to the future glory that awaits those of us in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 4:17).

So, who am I when my fears become reality?

Who am I when my dreams die in the wake of poor decisions?

Who am I when everything falls apart?

I am a daughter of

Israel’s King and Redeemer,

The LORD of Heaven’s armies:

Who is the First and the Last;

There is NO OTHER GOD.

None like Him.

And I will worship Him ONLY.

In His presence there is fullness of joy.

Also? I can do Hard Things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can you.

Maybe I’ll go change my knock-off Letterfolk sign to say that.

Vanessa is a mom, wife, and Christian blogger and speaker. Check out her blog here!