We’re reading the epic tale of Cain and Abel this week in Bible Study Fellowship. What stood out to me this time is that when God confronts Cain with his sin, using the same question he asked Eve, “What have you done?” Cain fails to repent. When God casts him out from his land to wander the earth, Cain implores God for mercy because the full consequences of his sin are “too much to bear” (no longer seeing God’s face, no place to call home, futility in his work and rejection by others). Yet in all this remorse Cain still does not experience grief or repentance over the murder of his brother.
Unconfessed sin is a cancer that metastasize throughout our lives and relationships, our work and our rest. And yet, when we are in a state of sin, it’s often difficult to see, so deeply have we deceived ourselves to obscure the dark workings of our hearts.
Reading about Cain and all this destruction nudged me to pray and ask God to search my heart, which brought this verse to mind:
Search me, God, and know my heart;Psalm 139: 23-24
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
And there it was, right in the Bible, the hack for rooting out sin:
What is the source of my anxiety?
This is not to say that all anxiety correlates to sin; but, the inverse may be true, all sin produces anxiety. I recall sinful situations in my past, and indeed anxiety served as an internal warning system of trouble ahead. I’ve confessed here before the difficult experience of being surprised by sin, but maybe a heart more tuned to anxiety could have avoided that shock. Here are a couple examples:
I have a few friendships in my life who produce anxiety in me, even though I love them dearly. I have always thought it was because they condescended to me, making me feel less than. But viewed through this filter, I see that my own selfish ambitions and desire for material things is the true source of my angst.
And here is one I know many of you will relate to. Most of my anxiety is for my children. I want good things for them. I worry about their safety. I worry about what’s next for them. I worry about their salvation. All of that worry and fear suggest I have forgotten whose children they are; they are the Lord’s. He has given me the privilege of shepherding them in this life, but my role is not to fret or attempt to orchestrate their outcomes. It is to pray for God’s leadership, provision and presence in their lives. If they know, love and seek to serve him first, all will be well.
- What are you worried about?
- Will you pray Psalm 139 and invite God to search your heart and expose where your anxiety may be pointing to sin?
- And unlike Cain, can we all be quick to repent? A gifted counselor once offered our family these simple, but magic words to practice with one another:
I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Will you forgive me?
Had Cain offered these words to God, perhaps the years in no man’s land could have been avoided. Even as he lived out the earthly consequences of desecrating the land with his brother’s blood, he could have done so in the comfort of the mercy and love that are only available in relationship with our Father.