Have you ever gotten sick of confessing the same sin over and over again?
There was a time in my life when I was going to Confession on a monthly basis for the same exact sin. It was exhausting.
Even though I always left feeling grateful for the forgiveness of my sins, the repetitive cycle I found myself in became tiresome. The grace of the Confessional always felt good, but the fall from grace always left me feeling like a failure.
Confession was something I regularly sought because I was fully aware of my need for God’s forgiveness–particularly for this more serious sin that I was enveloped in. However, underneath it all, I was always unsure if I truly had it in me to overcome the sins that were the hardest for me to let go of. I’d proven time and time again to myself that I was really a failure in overcoming this. Hard as I tried, it seemed I was never fully released from this sin I was enslaved to.
It was a debilitating cycle that continued repeating in my life: Temptation, sin, regret, sorrow, Confession, grace, repeat.
This cycle became frustrating to me, and the only way I thought to escape it was to withdraw from God altogether. It seemed as if no amount of Confession would help me break this pattern in my life, and since coming to God only made me feel like a failure, I resolved to pull away from Him in order to try and work things out on my own.
I tried many different ways to overcome my sin, but nothing seemed to work. In fact, as I started withdrawing from the Confessional and from the Eucharist, I found myself feeling more shame and more alone than ever. My sin and withdrawal from God made it utterly impossible to find the communion with Him that I so desired to have.
This kind of reaction to sin is so common. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, who in their shame hid from God and refused to directly offer Him their mistake in order to receive His forgiveness and mercy.
It feels natural to take things into our own hands–to back away from God when things get tough or when we feel that we are failing and can’t “fix” our situation. We can even convince ourselves that things “aren’t that bad” and that we have complete control over our situation, but falling into this trap is a huge mistake.
It took me a long time to see that I was pulling back from the only true source that could help me. By avoiding the Confessional and God himself, I didn’t escape the repetitive cycle. Instead, I created a new and more destructive cycle: temptation, sin, sorrow, depression, anxiety, self-loathing, repeat.
If you struggle with this, I want you to know something: You do not have complete control over your sin. You cannot escape your temptations on your own. Believe me, I battled this for years, and still have to work hard at releasing this control.
That habit you have of confessing the same sin over and over again?
KEEP. IT. UP.
It takes a good habit to destroy a bad habit, and it takes an abundance of grace to annihilate a disposition towards sin.
Keep seeking Christ’s forgiveness in the Confessional, because it’s a reminder of what it feels like to be released from slavery to sin. If you are truly heading to the Sacrament with humility and a contrite heart, the absolution from your sins and the grace you receive in the Confessional will have a deep impact on your soul–even if you fall from grace again not long after.
It may seem difficult to believe that you could ever go and “sin no more,” but the grace you receive in the Confessional is no joke. It’s real, and it’s transformative, and if you work hard to battle against sin, through the grace of God you will overcome it.
So don’t give up on it.
The fact of the matter is that we are all facing a real battle in our lives.
Sin wages war against our spirits, pulling us down and dragging us in the mud. And Satan laughs. He wants us to feel helpless and hopeless. He wants to cut us off from reaching out to God for help when we fall time and time again. He wants us to believe that God has limits to His mercy and His love, and that if we don’t change right now, today…that we are just a lie.
But HE’S the one lying.
And we need to stop listening.
Below are a few lessons that I learned along the way about the battle of sin and the reception of grace in the Confessional:
Lesson number 1: Sin is REAL.
Sin is not some idea, made up by the Church to make us feel bad about ourselves and our choices that are not in line with her teachings. Society today feeds us the message that we can and should do whatever we like, whatever makes us feel good, and we should feel no remorse for our actions or feel like we need to apologize. But this ideology is so contrary to the message of the Gospel. Jesus calls us time and time again to repentance, and He took on the most brutal death so that we could receive forgiveness in Him. It’s important to confront our sins because sin is what leads us away from communion with God. The deeper and uglier our sins, the further away from God we will find ourselves. There is so much hope for us, though, because Christ came to forgive us of our sins. He did this so that we could experience the fullness of life, and so that we would no longer be held down by the weight of our sin and impaled by the suffering sin brings to us. Yet, a lot of people believe that we receive forgiveness for our sins once and for all when we take Jesus into our hearts. The Catholic Church teaches otherwise, reminding us that receiving the gift of Redemption in Baptism isn’t a one and done type of deal. We must coorporate with this gift and live our lives in accordance. In other words, we must daily choose to fight the good fight; to say no to evil; to say yes to Christ and to put him above all things. When our actions and passions are disordered, what becomes master over our lives is not our good and gracious Savior…but sin.
Lesson number 2: Overcoming sin takes grace.
Our reaction to our sin in relation to God matters. We can either ignore the weight of our actions, as if they have no moral bearing, we can choose to continue on in them with no plans for change, we can try to hide from God as if He doesn’t see what we are doing or understand our hearts, or we can approach God with loving trust when we fall. What I learned and continue to learn is that I cannot overcome sin on my own. I need the Lord and His Church to give me the grace to overcome it (especially when it’s really bad). Hiding from Him does nothing for me, especially in the case where I fall, and fall again because of the same sin. Battling sin takes grace, and the primary place we receive the grace we need to stay resilient in the faith is in the Confessional and in the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is what sets our faith apart. You may hear people say that confessing your sins to a priest is nonsense, and that you can just as well confess your sins to Him alone in your room, but what is lacking outside of the Confessional is the grace received through the power of the Holy Spirit given through the sacraments. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ works through an ordained priest to not only absolve you of your sins, but cleanse your soul so that you become a new creation in Him. (A pure, sinless creation.) As for those old habits that won’t seem to die, the grace received in the Confessional is a grace that strengthens you with fortitude so that, overtime, you can go and “sin no more.”
Lesson number 3: To break a bad habit, you need to establish a new and better habit.
When sin becomes habitual, it takes a habit to break it. You may be sick of confessing the same sins over and over again, but sometimes that’s just what it takes! For me, it took years to overcome a particular sin of mine, and it was a painful, slow, and enduring process. It was as if Jesus was firing the kiln in my heart, and it hurt. But it was necessary. If I had stopped going to confession years ago, I’d never have experienced the freedom I have today because of God’s grace. I know without a doubt that I would still be enslaved to that particular sin, and let me tell you, that particular sin made me feel awful. Our world tells us to embrace certain sins–that it’s in fact freeing to do so–but that’s a lie. Our actions matter. Sin wounds because it soils the reality that you are a creation of God, created in His image. You were meant for more. You were made for more. And all those desires in your heart for true and lasting freedom, joy, peace, and wholeness…that comes in having a heart freed from the clutches of sin. Develop the habit of immediately turning to God and seeking His forgiveness, and head to Confession particularly when you’ve committed a serious sin. Don’t be afraid to cry out for God’s mercy the second you fall from grace. Keep trusting in Him, receive the grace you need that strengthens you, work hard against your temptations, and when you fall, try, try again.
Don’t let sin defeat you.
In your perseverance Christ will not let you fail.
Keep fighting the good fight, and waging the battle against sin.
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