Making Room for Repentance

Psalm 38 offers a liturgy of lament for when it all goes wrong, and the sin is mine.

Those times when I realize I am the one who said or did something causing damage or disappointment to someone else. While I can pull out some handy well-worn excuses, the reality of my sin blares like a stuck car horn on a quiet Saturday morning parked right by the house. The sound of that horn and the implication of what I have done sincerely disturb me.

I would much prefer to skip suffering and leapfrog over lament, but stuffing away guilt and remorse will only lead to more and more damage. Like the psalmist, I require God’s mercy. I need to make room for repentance.

1O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!
2 For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.
3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin.
(Psalm 38:1-2 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin leads to Structural Damage

The longer it remains buried under the surface, the more damage it will do to my entire being. I was not designed to carry sin. The weight of carrying it around is too much.

4 For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
6 I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning.
7 For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh.
(Psalm 38:4-7 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin’s Damage Quietly Grows under the Surface

When a wound is not cleaned and cleared out, it may fester and cause a noxious odor.

A few months ago, after clearing out a storage unit for a family member, a tiny scratch or abrasion allowed an infection to enter my wrist. Slowly but surely, a hot red patch of skin expanded. I was busy and tried to ignore it. It was painful, but an injury to my hand caused me to miss the signs of a growing infection. I attributed the throbbing pain to a previous sprain. I tried pain patches, hydrocortisone cream, and ice packs, but things only worsened.

Finally, a friend expressed concern and encouraged me to have my doctor take a look. She examined my arm and immediately left the room to fetch an associate to review her findings. Moments later, I was sent to the pharmacy to fill a prescription for a potent antibiotic.

8 I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart.
9 O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off.
(Psalm 38:8-11 ESV)

Unrepentant Sin Leads to Isolation

God designed me to live in a community with others in mutually beneficial relationships. Unrepentant sin causes me to pull away and hide at a time when I am in the greatest need of support. Sooner or later, I need others to pray for me, encourage me, and offer advice or perspective. Life is hard. Traveling solo leaves me in a spiritual echo chamber.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long.
13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes.
(Psalm 38:12-14 ESV)

Unrepentant sin disorientates me and takes my voice

Sound helps orient me on my faith journey. Hearing God’s word daily keeps me on track. Listening to praise and worship music fills me with hope. Sin dulls my appetite for God’s word and leads me to seek escapism in my media choices.  

Unrepentant sin comes between the Holy Spirit and me. I can no longer hear the still, small voice of guidance. Also, I lose my voice when I am not receiving regular replenishment from this promised helper. Doubts crowd my mind. The voice of the accuser is amplified. I get stuck and silent.


Lord, I need Your mercy to cleanse me of the things done and left undone that have wronged others and failed You. Order my life in a way that leaves room for regular repentance. Please help me to acknowledge my sins. Send a fresh wave of your Holy Spirit to examine me. Help me repent of every sin and keep me from denial. I pray all of this in the mighty name of Jesus, and I wait for your reply. Amen