I know a Christian man with a wife and kids. He had the opportunity to work away from home for a while. Before he had even left he had made up his mind to be unfaithful and once he arrived, far away from family and friends he wasted no time hooking up with whatever his heart desired.
Eventually, his time away came to an end and he got on a bus to come home. Almost immediately, the thrills of his adventures left him. As soon as he sat on that bus and watched the town roll by, the drinking, the parties and the exploits all vanished and, like a man waking from a bad dream, he was left with nothing but the bitter fruit of guilt and overwhelming shame.
Not long after he made confession. He said, “It was like I went mad. I just went crazy. I was consumed with nothing else but throwing myself head-first into every opportunity for more sin.”
As far as confessions go it sounded reasonable enough. But on reflection, I am not sure this was a confession at all. Though probably unaware, he was delivering a get-out-of-jail-free card.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
I suspect his problem would be more honestly put if it were stated the other way around.
His claim was that his dive into sin was the result of a “moment of madness”. But nobody ever got syphilis as a result of going mad. They went mad on account of the syphilis.
Madness does not drive us to sin. Sin is what drives us mad.
Milton Erickson, a psychologist and often considered the father of modern hypnosis (not a practise I would endorse and not a man I would endorse) tells the experience he had with a young married man who had been scheduled into a mental institute with catatonic schizophrenia. He had been in the institution for around two years when Erickson started meeting with him.
He had only been married a couple of years and until a year into his marriage had led a normal healthy life in almost every respect. Since there was no history of mental illness, and since the doctors had given up on him, Milton was interested to study his case.
Each week for about eight weeks he went to visit the young man. He had studied his history and spent time with his wife so as to be prepared to speak with this guy and try and get some breakthrough but nothing had worked so far. Each week the young man would stare vacantly and offer no response to anything Milton said.
Milton, who at least had some vague idea of what was in a man, decided to change course. After about two months of getting nowhere, he went into the young man’s room and simply said, “What did you do that was so awful, so shameful, that you ended up in this condition?”
The young man’s eyes flickered and darted, his body began to shake and he broke down in tears. It turned out that about eight months into their marriage he had had an affair. It was a one-off thing but it left him guilty and ashamed.
No longer able to look his young bride in the eyes, he began to act out small, silly and distracting behaviour. Further guilted by the behaviours, he began to withdraw and act out even more bizarre behaviours in order to keep people at a distance. Eventually, he was in such a spiral that he collapsed into a schizophrenic and then catatonic state.
This confession was enough to break the cycle of guilt and denial and he was able to leave the hospital after around six weeks and return to a normal life outside.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
In both of these accounts, some form of the insanity plea was invoked in order to assuage guilt, but it never works. Yes, the madness is real but it’s not the cause of our sin.
For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened… Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves (Romans 1:21, 24)
On the last day, no one will be admitted through the pearly gates with, “Look, Lord, see my Prozac!” as their defence.
Honest confession and repentance coupled with a Father in Heaven who covers our sin through Jesus is the only way.
May you know the liberation of coming clean before Him in confession today.