A few years ago, I was on my way to an appointment at the fertility clinic in Kingston when I had a thought. I had been trying unsuccessfully for several months to conceive and had undergone numerous invasive procedures. I had been poked and prodded by many doctors and other medical professionals to no avail.
So on this day I was on my way to the clinic once again when I saw a woman at a bus stop. The sun was blindingly bright and the weather was torturously hot. But there she stood at the bus stop, patiently waiting for a bus that would show up…whenever. At that moment, the thought hit me that we all carry burdens in one way or another. On that particular day, my burden was my fertility struggles and hers, at least on the surface, was having to stand in the blazing hot sun, uncomfortably sweating it out while waiting for an uncertain bus. I knew what burden I was carrying and I saw a burden that she was carrying.
But I recently realised that sometimes we also bear burdens that we have no clue we’re carrying. Take me, for example. Up until April 1 of this year, I had two burdens that I was carrying that I didn’t know were burdens (no, I’m not going to tell you what they were – some things need to remain private). They were actually two very bad habits that I had that I already knew I should kick. In fact, you know what? Let me call them what they were: sin. Plain and simple, they weren’t just bad habits, they were sins in God’s eyes, and they were creating a burden on me that I just couldn’t get rid of.
I am drowning in the flood of my sins; they are a burden too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:4 (GNT)
I knew they were wrong but I kept doing them anyway. I tried to kick them myself several times but I always veered back in their direction, thinking that since God was dealing me about everything else in my life, He would deal with me on those things when He was ready.
I don’t think He got ready; I think I did. What happened was, I missed His presence. As simple as that. It was at that all-night prayer meeting at the end of March that I missed Him. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great night and I enjoyed it from beginning to end and I know He was there, but I missed Him. I didn’t feel like He visited with me personally in the way He had at the previous all-night meeting less than two months before, the way I’ve felt on other occasions. As I drove home that morning after the meeting was over, I thought about why I had missed God and the answer was clear. It was the unaddressed sin in my life.
We had started out the night by reading Psalm 53. As we were reading, I saw a note that I had written in my bible some time last year about verse 4 of this very psalm.
You see what it says there? Sometimes I forget that sin isn’t just me doing something wrong. I forget that I’m actually grieving God when I sin. He’s grieved. That means it hurts Him when I sin. It hurts Him. I deliberately hurt God when I willfully and knowingly sin. Oh, that struck me deep when I read it. Even as we moved on to read the rest of the psalm, my eyes kept drifting back to that note I had made. After we were done reading, we prayed individually for a while, confessing our sins and repenting of them, because for the work we had ahead of us that night, we all needed to come clean before God. So I confessed my sins – particularly in those two areas – and asked God’s forgiveness.
But as I was driving home hours later and I was thinking about why I had missed God, it struck me that although I had confessed those sins and asked forgiveness, I really didn’t have the intention in my heart of not doing them again. I was still in the place of, “Well, Lord, You’ll take care of it when You’re ready.” So what I had done was confess my sins with every intention of committing them again.
Oh, that burned me. I immediately started feeling what I can only call a righteous indignation for a few reasons. I had offended God not only with my sins but also with my truthfully unrepentant attitude about them, which was masked by a shallow sort of confession. Just as bad, I had missed out on the blessing of experiencing God’s presence that night because of my clinging to these two sins. What else would I miss because of them? What did God have for me that I would forfeit – in fact, what had I already forfeited – because I wouldn’t put these sins and their resultant burdens down? And even more, I realised what a slap in the face this was to Jesus – that He died for my sins that I willfully kept committing. Suddenly, these “bad habits” no longer seemed worth hurting God or missing His presence or dissing Jesus.
Right there in the car as I drove through the early morning, I opened my mouth and started praying. I don’t think that kind of righteous indignation can come upon you and you not pray. For those of you who know Kingston, Jamaica, I started praying at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Molynes Road and stopped when I got to the stop light just above Spanish Town Hospital. I rebuked and I prayed – serious warfare prayers – the entire way. By the time I got back to my mom’s house, I was done. Done with the intention to sin and free of the heavy burdens I never knew I was carrying, thank God.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve shed many burdens; some I’ve put down myself and others I’ve been mercifully relieved of by God. Some of those burdens had nothing to do with sin and others were laced with it. I know that the future will bring other burdens but, man, am I glad that I learned this lesson during this interlude! On the one hand, I feel as though I’m starting my new chapter so much cleaner and fresher than I was before. But more importantly, I know that when sin burdens come in the future I never want to accept them as just a part of my life; I want to be bothered by them so that I can truly repent and not stand in the way of my relationship with God.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)