an unexpected turn
Over plates of chicken shawarma, I asked the young twenty-something in front of me what her relationship with God currently looked like. She said it had changed a lot over the past year, then proceeded to tell me why. And the “why” went a direction I didn’t expect.
She had attended a Bible study I’d taught the previous year on sexual sin, and because of the prevalence of masturbation among the college students and young professionals I work with at church, one of the sins I had specifically addressed in that study was masturbation. Leading up to that study, I had specifically prayed that God would bring freedom to girls who were struggling with sexual sin and that He would give them boldness to confess their sin.
Turns out, this young woman was one such answer to that prayer. Even though she had been a Christian for years, she had never told anyone that she struggled with masturbation. She hadn’t even talked to God about it; she felt it wasn’t something she could even voice to Him, much less deal with.
Laden with guilt and shame, it hindered her spiritual growth because she didn’t feel like she could approach God—at least not before she cleaned herself up and made herself presentable to Him by getting a handle on her sin problem. But we don’t get control of unconfessed sin; it gets control of us. We become slaves to our secret sin.
Another girl in her small group had likewise struggled with masturbation as well as pornography, and soon after that Bible study, my dinner companion saw how the small group responded to her friend with grace and compassion when she confessed her struggle with masturbation and porn to their group. My young friend also recognized how she didn’t view this small group member any differently after learning of her past and present sexual sin.
Hearing others unashamedly talk about the same sin she’d kept secret empowered her to finally face it and to tell someone about it. She not only confessed her sin to God, she—by His grace—also acknowledged it to her small group. In the process, she experienced the freedom of God’s forgiveness and the encouragement, accountability, and fellowship that living in the light brings.
in the light
1 John 1:7 teaches that “if we walk in the light as [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Because of her confession and repentance, this young twenty-something felt the reality of this verse; she knew she was right with God for the first time in a long time. Before her confession, her desire and will to study the Bible and to pray was hindered by her secret sin, but now she consistently studies the Bible on her own. She’s tasted God’s grace and she’s hungry to know more.
By living in the light with her small group, she also experienced the authentic fellowship of 1 John 1:7, for meaningful relationships in the Body of Christ hinge on living in the light with each other.
Confession and repentance do not mean that temptation magically goes away, but now my young friend has people who know her struggles and who can check in on her. She has people she can go to for prayer when she’s wanting to give in to sin, and friends who can provide encouragement and reminders of the gospel when she has sinned. Her community doesn’t expect perfection because we’re incapable of it, but they do point her to Christ and urge her to continue in faith and obedience to Him.
Recently, this young woman served at a Vacation Bible School, and one night she shared a kid-friendly version of her testimony. She highlighted how she had grown up knowing the church words “grace” and “gospel” but had failed to grasp how those truths applied to her. It was only in confessing her sin to God that she truly understood God’s love and forgiveness for her in Christ. Though she is undeserving, He has applied the righteousness of His Son Jesus to her, and because Jesus has taken her sin, God has pardoned her and set her free. She’s no longer a slave to her sin; she’s finally submitted to Christ. Sharing this with the kids renewed her thankfulness to Him for the gospel and for His work in her.
Sisters, there’s no sin you’re incapable of, but there’s also no sin that God cannot forgive and free you from. If you have your own secret sin, go to Him with it; He already knows anyway. And knowing your secret sin doesn’t change His love for you. Freedom starts with confession.
Confess your sin to Him and ask Him to give you the boldness to confess your sin to a trusted sister in Christ, someone who can walk with you and point you to Him. We need the Body to help us grow in Christlikeness, especially on those days when we don’t feel like being obedient or when we don’t feel like the gospel is true. We need help remembering that God’s Word trumps our feelings. His Word remains true, whether or not we feel like it’s true.
faith over feelings
You may not feel like you can approach God with your sin, but Hebrews 4:14–16 states, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
You may not feel like God wants you after what you’ve done, but Isaiah 30:18 describes how “…the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”
You may feel like you’re in a pit of sin too deep to get out of, but 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (emphasis added). You can’t get yourself out of the pit, but God can. This is what it means for Him to be our Deliverer, for He delivers us from sin’s penalty and power (2 Samuel 22:2–3; Psalm 32).
You may feel condemned by God because you keep failing, but Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So, sisters: confess, repent, and believe the gospel. Cling to God’s truth, not your feelings.
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Singles 20s/30s Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While Ashley has a passion for discipling young women, she also loves her city and has written a children’s book about it called Down in the Ham: A Child’s Guide to Downtown Birmingham. When she’s not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer’s market or trying some new local restaurant.
Contributors to the "Behind Closed Doors" series are sharing personal stories about sin, and the redemptive hope found in Christ within Christian community. Our mission at Well-Watered Women is to equip women with a deeper understanding and love for God's Word, and we also encourage women who are struggling to seek the help of biblical counselors and/or medical professionals. You are not alone!