Light & Darkness

Gracey Armstrong   -  

An entry from my journal on February 4, 2018:


Today’s church service hit the most tender spot I have. I’m a little shaken up. The Pastor talked about secrets, how healing can’t come from hiding, how we must share our deepest secret in order to heal from it. He shared that secrets grow and gain strength in the dark. I know you know me. I know me. I just don’t want others to know me. I’ve never even written down in my own writing my deepest temptation and struggle. FIVE whole years bottled up. I feel so trapped. I don’t want anyone to know. I am so ashamed, feel so fake, so in the dark – like I’ve betrayed everyone for keeping this hidden. There is so much shame that is so hidden, so deep. So rooted. I feel nothing can take it away. But Jesus you know me. You LOVE me. I don’t have to be ready to let things go. I know I just need to – for the sake of being set free. Because what if no one judges me? What if no one thinks differently of me? What if I come alive? For the first time…what if I come alive? I cannot hide and heal at the same time. Jesus, I want to be set free. I want to be free from this shame that has entrapped me for five whole years. From this sin that has been settling, strengthening, growing. Jesus I have to tell somebody. But I want somebody who understands. Give me someone who has gone through the same thing. God help me let go of my pride so that I can live fully known, fully loved, and fully alive. Jesus, I need you more than I’ve ever needed you in my life. A wound has just been opened and I don’t know how to let you heal it.” 

I struggled with pornography for five years, and I struggled alone. I kept this sin in the dark because I was ashamed, I thought I was alone, and my pride didn’t want people to know that I struggled in this way. When sin is hidden in the darkness it thrives and grows. When we have the Holy Spirit within us but still choose to keep sin in the dark, shame grows as well. Sometimes Satan whispers lies to us about our sin– you are alone, no one will understand you, you are too broken (John 10:10) and that’s why we keep it hidden. Sometimes it’s our flesh that desires comfort and temporary gratification through the things of this world, convincing us we cannot or do not want to live without it (Galatians 5:16). Most of the time, it’s probably a little of both. No matter what it is that keeps you in the dark, it’s never easy to share your struggles. It seems better to stay hidden, where judgment is not risked, and our flesh can run wild. You can still know Jesus and walk chained to your sin, but this is not how we are called to live and it diminishes the joy and freedom we are capable of receiving here on Earth. Sin flourishes in the darkness but it withers our soul– it keeps us trapped, stumbling, and fearful. Bringing sin to the light is difficult, but allows us to experience Heaven-sized freedom while we are still living in a fallen world. This freedom only comes through walking in step with the Spirit and this requires confession and repentance. These two words seem churchy and intimidating (even growing up in the church my whole life I felt this way for a long time), and you might not know where to start or how to keep going. But when you invite God to give you the strength, discipline, and boldness to confess and repent, He is faithful to walk alongside you. There is a deep internal joy, unity with others, and tangible fruit that waits on the other side of these practices. Here is a little bit on confession and repentance and what they practically look like: 


The first practice is confession. Romans 3:23-24 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We must first confess our sins to God because it is through His grace that we are saved and ultimately it is Him that we sin against. But confession to others around us is necessary in our spiritual walk; confession to others doesn’t save us, but it can help us find healing. If you break your leg but want to heal on your own – maybe because of pride, maybe because of embarrassment, maybe because you think it’s not a big deal – no matter what the reason is, the condition of your leg is only going to get worse. Sin without confession is the same way, except when talking about confessing our sins to others, it doesn’t need to be confessed to a specific person like a broken leg needs to be brought to a professional doctor. You can share your specific struggles to any Christian around you who will lead you in accountability, point you to Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and encourage you in repentance. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” There is a reason scripture calls us to confess our sins to others – we do not have the strength to heal on our own. It can be scary confessing our sin because it takes vulnerability and the discipline to turn away from things that may be comforting or temporarily gratifying. But when we know Jesus, we don’t live for satisfying the flesh because we know it’s temporary; we live with a mind set on eternal life (Galatians 6:8). God created life so He knows where true goodness is found and He invites us to live in it. When you have people around you who are walking in step with the Spirit, confession will open the door to a deeper encouragement and accountability to walk in the light. When you confess your sins to a trusted follower of Jesus, or if someone confesses to you, intentionality is the key. We are called to lift one another up, and this takes intentional communication with one another. Confession to God is a part of our salvation, and confession to others is a part of our sanctification. 


Bringing sin to the light through confession does not stop there. The second spiritual practice is repentance. Confession feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders – but that’s not the whole point of confessing our sins. The point is to walk in step with the Spirit and live more like Jesus (Galatians 5:16-17). This comes through confession and repentance. To help me picture these practices more clearly, I see confession as the verbal step and repentance as a physical step to walk closer with Jesus. Repentance is the actual turning away from the sin you confess. Repentance is the action plan – practical things you can do in order to heal from sin. Where confession is like going to the doctor for a broken leg, repentance is like the physical therapy that is necessary for full healing. I know that I have confessed many sins to the people around me almost as a therapeutic method of “feeling good”, but then it’s stopped there, and I continue to struggle. Confession without repentance can even be selfish if the goal is to feel good instead of looking like Jesus. God spiritually heals us from our sin, and it is forgiven because of what Jesus has done, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be tempted. You don’t have to feel ashamed or lose hope when you are tempted after confessing your sin, this is simply the condition of our lives on Earth. But we are called to fight those temptations, and 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way to escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Those words “escape” and “endure” prove that it is not an easy task to say no to our temptations – be it gossip, sexual sin, acting out in our anger, cheating, etc. – You don’t have to escape something unless you feel trapped, and you don’t have to endure something unless it is difficult. Even though it’s not easy, and sometimes excruciatingly hard, saying “no” in moments of temptation, it gives us the opportunity to not live under the weight and power of our sin – which ends up being way harder in the long run. So, what can practical repentance look like? If you struggle with alcohol, this can mean not going anywhere you are tempted to drink (parties, bars, etc.) and not having alcohol in the house. If you struggle with pornography this could mean telling a mentor to check up on your daily or weekly, and putting locks on your phone so you can’t access certain websites. If you struggle with gossip this could mean asking your friends to stop you when you start speaking negatively about someone, as well as memorizing verses about speaking hurtful words. This is a choice you have to make between you and the Lord, but community is a big part of actually carrying it out. Having people around us to keep encouraging us to live in the light is the second greatest gift God has given us, after salvation. Repentance looks like a change of behavior, but it is rooted in a change of heart. 

Confessing and repenting of my struggle with pornography was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because I didn’t know what the reaction from my friends and family was going to be, but it’s been the most beautiful and freeing testimony of my life so far. Jesus has brought beauty where there was so much shame and pain. Confessing it for the first time led to true repentance and the ability to completely lay it at the foot of the cross and not pick it back up – this wasn’t immediate though and did take a lot of self-control and accountability. I’ve been able to share what Jesus has done in this area of my life with so many people; when we confess our sins, God can use these struggles to comfort others who are currently fighting the same battle. When we turn away from sin, God frees up space in our hearts for more of His truth and less of our shame. Part of the reason I never opened up was because I thought my credibility as a Christ follower and leader would be diminished – but I was missing the whole point of the gospel. Jesus has saved me and my identity is not found in my struggles, but what He’s done for me. The only credibility I have is found in what Jesus finished on the Cross, nothing of what I have done or will do – good or bad. I encourage you, no matter how big or small you think your sin is, no matter if you wear it on your sleeve or have been hiding it for years, confession and repentance, although through a lot of work, lead to a freedom and joy unimaginable. We will always live imperfect lives, therefore we must walk in step with the Spirit through confession and repentance because this is where true freedom and fruit are found. 

Here are some questions to ponder or journal through this week when thinking of confession and repentance: 

  • Is there something you need to confess and repent of in your life? 
  • Who is a trusted follower of Jesus and friend you can go to for accountability? 
  • How has your view of confession and repentance impacted how you practice these disciplines?

For further growth in this area, listen to this podcast to deepen your understanding of repentance and consider signing up for a community group for greater accountability in your life.