Confession has been a gift to our marriage. We did not realize the impact and importance it has in building unity and intimacy until we started practicing confessing to one another regularly.
The Bible tells us in James 5 to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Confession is one of the most powerful gifts God has given us. It is by confession that we are saved. (Romans 10:10) It is by confession that we are healed. When we confess our sin we are saying that God is right and we are not. It is humbling our selves. It is the killing of our flesh just as Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him. But confession can be hard especially because it is exactly the opposite of what our flesh wants. Confession exposes our nakedness and our natural instinct is to protect that nakedness and to cover it up. But when we hide we allow our sins and wrong ways of thinking to live on instead of being cut away.
In this episode of the Marriage After God Podcast we candidly talk about our experiences, we share how to confess to your spouse, why you should do it, and what we have benefited from doing it. We share scriptures about confession and why it is vital for a marriage after God to do this. We hope this encourages you in your marriage. Be sure to listen with your spouse and talk about this topic afterward.
Read The Transcript:
Aaron Smith: Hey, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.
Jennifer Smith: Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.
Aaron Smith: Today we’re gonna talk about something that’s pretty sticky, pretty hard, but it’s how to confess to your spouse.
Hey, as always, we wanna invite you to subscribe to our channel by hitting the little red button and next to the little red button is a little bell. If you click that, it’ll give you notifications every time we upload a new episode each week.
Jennifer Smith: Also, be sure to leave comments because we love hearing from you guys.
Aaron Smith: Okay, this episode is gonna be rough because confessing to your spouse your sin is not an easy thing. To be honest, I have a feeling that a lot of couples don’t do it. If they do, it’s probably rare. But it’s something that Jennifer and I have attempted to grow in and mature in and become-
Jennifer Smith: Better at?
Aaron Smith: Yeah, better at and consistent in and there’s a bunch of reasons why. Not only do I wanna explain to you guys today the reasons why we think confessing to your spouse is so powerful and so good for your marriage, but we’re also gonna give you some understandings and ideas on how to deal with confession and how to appropriately do it and how to confess correctly, if we could say it that way, because there’s a lot of ways we might wanna confess but we hope to help you guys in this area of your marriage to find more freedom, more healing, and more oneness, and in a reality more power in your marriage through confession.
Jennifer Smith: I think that we should just start off with some Scripture and jump right into it and see what God has to say about confession. We’re gonna go to 1 John 1, starting at verse five, and we just wanna encourage you guys to pull your Bibles out. Usually with these episodes, we get trying to dig into the word and give you some biblical understanding of what topics we’re talking about. With confession today, we’re gonna start in 1 John 1:5.
It says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
This is a really powerful verse, Aaron, and I just want you to talk a a little bit about how it’s talking about your relationship with God, but also how we can apply these principles to marriage.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, first of all, the confession that we’re talking about here, confessing our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins. The basic principle of our Christianity, of our faith, is confession, that if we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart, then we’ll be saved. The confession that this is talking about is we confess that we are sinners before the Living God. We say, “We need your salvation through Jesus Christ.”
That’s not the confession we’re talking about today, but it is a good point to bring up that there is power in confession. It’s one of the greatest gifts God’s given us is that we get salvation through confession and belief. We wanted to just start there and explain that confession is, again, one of the most powerful things that God’s given us, one of the most powerful gifts.
Jennifer Smith: It requires humility, doesn’t it, to be able to go before God and say, “I am a sinner and I need you.” That requires humility and it’s not an easy thing to do by any means, but just the transformation that can come in our hearts because of that humility and because of that willingness to admit that we need Him is really powerful.
Aaron Smith: It’s that willingness to confess that we and our works are inadequate for salvation. It’s saying, “Okay, Lord, you and what you’ve done for me through Jesus Christ is the only thing that could save me.” Confessing that we’re sinners because everyone’s a sinner. It says, “If you say you’re not a sinner, you’re a liar and the truth is not in you.” We are all sinners. We confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and we believe in our hearts that He was risen from the dead, we will be saved. Then it tells us that we need to confess our sins right here in 1 John 1.
The power that is in confession, it doesn’t just end there in our salvation. We’re called and commanded to continually confess ’cause the idea is that we’re still be sanctified daily. Our listeners, I doubt that they haven’t sinned today. They have. We all have. Every day we fall into some sort of temptation. But the fact is that we don’t have to because we have a Savior and we have the Holy Spirit living in us. But because we’re in the flesh, there’s still that constant battle and when we walk in the flesh, we gratify the desires of the flesh. When we walk in the Spirit, we gratify the desires of the Spirit.
Confession becomes important in our day to day sanctification and here’s a verse that we’re gonna get to a little later that explains exactly how we should confess. At this point, this is no longer just a confession to our Father in Heaven because, to be honest, He’s imputed all of our sin to Christ and since Jesus Christ is now our identity and Jesus Christ and His righteousness is our righteousness, God sees us as righteous. But there’s still a need for confession. That confession that we do on a daily basis, sometimes on a moment by moment basis, is confessing that we still need Jesus, that we still need the Holy Spirit to empower us, to cleanse us of all unrighteousness-
Jennifer Smith: And by doing that, it brings us back into fellowship.
Aaron Smith: It brings us back into fellowship and it keeps our eyes in the right direction. It keeps our focus in the right direction. To be honest, confession is one of the ways that we kill our flesh. It takes “take up our cross daily.” Jesus said that. “Take up our cross daily and follow Him.” One of the ways we take up our cross is by confessing and that’s one of the ways that we kill our flesh ’cause we say, “No, flesh, you’re not going to get away with this. We’re not gonna continue to hide these things that we’ve done or that we’re deciding to do. We’re gonna confess and we’re gonna bring them into the light.” It says, “Do we walk in darkness?” We’re not called to walk in darkness, we’re called to walk in light. We’re now people of light. Confession, the tool that it is, is it’s our light that we get to shine inside of us so that we take all of the things in the darkness and we make them light.
Jennifer Smith: Which I really love that contrast of darkness and light because I think it’s a really good imagery of what that looks like in our life. When we take this Scripture and we just put it in context of marriage, we can easily see how- Well, we’ve seen it in our marriage where if there’s a sin that we’re partaking in, there’s immediate darkness there. When we don’t confess it, it bubbles over-
Aaron Smith: Festers.
Jennifer Smith: It festers and then it starts spreading to other areas of our marriage and it really affects us. But when we acknowledge that God is light and we try and walk as people of light and we do confess, it’s like shining a big old flashlight in that area and we expose it for what it is. Even though that’s extremely hard to do, and there’s risk involved because it could hurt you or it could hurt me-
Aaron Smith: Well, it is hurting.
Jennifer Smith: It is hurting.
Aaron Smith: It’s painful.
Jennifer Smith: It is super painful, you’re right about that. We just don’t know how that other person’s gonna respond to us. It’s hard to do but it’s so good because once that area is lit up, we can get rid of it. We can clean it out. We can remove it from our lives and that’s the next step in transformation is just cleaning out that area.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and the other part of confession is not just for our sake. You mentioned a second ago that it cultivates oneness and it brings back into fellowship. Our confession for salvation is to bring us into fellowship with the Father. Our confession after that on Earth is gonna bring us back into fellowship with the ones that we’ve wronged. That’s what leads us into why it’s good to confess to your spouse. The reason we wanna talk about this is we’ve had a lot of emails and conversations and friends from the past and I’ve heard them say, “Oh, I don’t need to tell my wife that. I don’t wanna put that on her, overwhelm her with that, or break her heart. I have my brothers and my friends, my accountability partners, that I confess to. They know.”
The way I look at that is since we’re one, since we’re a unit, when I sin in private it doesn’t matter if she knows or not. I’ve sinned against my own body, my wife. The offended party, my wife, whether she knows she’s offended or not is the one that I need to go confess to ’cause the Bible tells us to go and to seek forgiveness from our brothers if we’ve wronged someone. It says if someone’s wronged you, you go to them. It says if they confess and they repent, you’ve won your brother. If I’m sinning in private, my major sin is pornography, and it was something that I would go back to often. If I do that in private, I don’t have a right to just go to my brothers, my accountability partners, and tell them only.
I know it feels that way and it’s actually much easier to do that because my brothers who also struggle with that are like, “Oh, we get it. You know what? Be stronger next time. We’re with you.” But all along, my wife over here, all I’ve done is cast darkness in our marriage and I’ve severed oneness with us because I’ve taken a major sin that I’ve not only done against myself and my own body, I’ve done it against my actual body, the oneness that we have. My job to confess to my wife is unavoidable but we do avoid it. I did it for a long time. But it wasn’t until I learned to come to you and confess to you the right way, ’cause I would confess to her the wrong way and we’ll talk about that, but until I learned how to confess the right way my actual sin, my issue with pornography, wasn’t actually getting dealt with ’cause I was never being confronted with the true consequences of my sin.
Jennifer Smith: I would guarantee you, everyone listening right now, that even if let’s say you did tell your accountability partners or brothers in Christ or whoever and not me, not your wife. That tension of that sin happening-
Aaron Smith: The shame on the inside, the guilt.
Jennifer Smith: Well, even if I don’t know exactly what happened, I can tell something happened. I can tell something was wrong. There have been times in our marriage where I’ve asked you, “Hey, have you been struggling lately? I just feel like something’s going on.” Even if you’re not willing to tell me, usually the other party can feel it. I just wanna encourage those listening that it really is important. I feel like confession is important because you’re affecting your marriage no matter what and even if you think you’re hiding it or you think the other person doesn’t know, they probably have a good sense that you’re at least struggling. It’s really important to get that out in the open so that you guys can help each other work through it and work through it as one and not separately.
Aaron Smith: Like we said, where there’s darkness, there’s darkness in the marriage. It’s over here and I might have confessed to my brothers, which I’m not saying you should not confess to accountability partners, friends, brothers that you trust. But they shouldn’t be the only people. If the person you’ve wronged is your spouse, the person you’ve wronged is the one yo should go and confess to, not someone else who has no part in this, no responsibility in it. Now, I think both should happen and we’ll talk about that. In James 5, it talks about that.
But like you said, there’s that darkness that’s there in the relationship. There is a spiritual consequence to our sin. You are spiritually connected to me not just as my wife, but as a sister in Christ and I’ve wronged you. There’s a brokenness in the fellowship. I can’t try and have a right relationship with you when I’m walking in darkness over here, because what did 1 John say again?
It says, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” This is talking about with our relationship with the Father, but it works in the same way in our relationships. I’m walking in darkness over here and I claim to be walking in light over here. I’m lying. I’m not walking in the truth and I’m not walking in true fellowship with my wife and I’m not walking in transparency and in light. I’m walking in darkness. It wasn’t until I recognized that that I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m just keeping all this darkness over here.” Remarkably, unsurprisingly, I wasn’t finding true healing. I wasn’t changing. My confession was not real.
Jennifer Smith: Just to wrap up this verse that we’re looking at, I wanna just touch on this last part that says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” I don’t think I’m the only one in this. Maybe I’m wrong. But when we first got married, remember I thought that I was perfect, or at least close to perfect. Anytime a problem arrived-
Aaron Smith: At least compared to me.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. Well, anytime a problem arrived or there was an issue, I always looked at you and pointed the finger and just thought that you were the issue or that your sin was the issue and it was really hard for me to look inward and see where I was being the one in the wrong. I just wanna reiterate that this last part of these verses, because it’s so important to remember that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that our spouse is the only one capable of sinning and we can’t compare sins. We can’t say, “Well, if you’re struggling with pornography that’s not as bad as my sin and what I’m struggling with, whether it’s gossip or jealousy or whatever.”
Aaron Smith: Therefore, I don’t need to confess because yours is much greater than mine.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, so we need to be really careful when it comes to considering our own sins and always evaluate and constantly be on guard and evaluate your lives to see if you’re walking in that truth and walking in that light.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. It wasn’t that you needed to confess everything. When you realized that there were things that you did need to confess, the mutual confession did cultivate an environment of confession. It didn’t become, “I’m always the one coming to you to confess, there I go again,” which it was that because I was walking in it pretty rampantly. But if you felt like you can come to confess to me, that would be empowering. It would be encouraging. It would be building oneness still, and it would cultivate more of an environment of confession in our marriage and it did. We learned that confession was a vital part of our oneness.
Jennifer Smith: Of bringing us back to reconciliation and back on the same page and experiencing that oneness and intimacy, ’cause intimacy is affected by so many other things in marriage.
Aaron Smith: Oh, my gosh, yes.
Jennifer Smith: Sin is definitely a part of that. I also wanna encourage those listening that even though confession isn’t easy, as you practice it it becomes easier, wouldn’t you say? Just like what you were just saying, as we understood the value of confession and both taking part in doing it, it became a lot easier to do.
Aaron Smith: It also made the sins that we were prone to much harder to fall into because all we were thinking was, “Well, if I make that choice, I’m gonna have to go see the pain on my spouse’s face.” That, again, going back to it’s killing the flesh. I’m gonna confess ’cause I don’t want my flesh to win in this area.
Jennifer Smith: Which is a really important reason why we wanted to talk about confession today is that killing of the flesh because that is a motivation for confession. Do you wanna read Romans 8 and talk about that?
Aaron Smith: Yeah, so in Romans 8 we get reminded by Paul to walk in the Spirit and not to gratify the desires of the flesh. He says this right here in verse 12 of Romans 8.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die.” This is what we were doing every single time I was dipping back into my sin I was continuing. I was killing not only myself spiritually, but I was killing my marriage.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: “You will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God.” I’m a son of God, you’re a daughter of God, you’re a son of God, you’re a daughter of God. What we do is we put to death the deeds of flesh. One of the ways of doing that is by confessing the deeds of the flesh-
Jennifer Smith: The deeds of the flesh.
Aaron Smith: It hurts. You’re probably sitting there right now thinking, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t go tell my spouse that I did XYZ.” The reason you’re telling yourself that is ’cause the flesh is saying, “That’s gonna hurt too much.” Think about fasting. I just wanna give this example for a second. Fasting is another way that we kill the deeds of the flesh because the basic needs of our body is to eat. It’s a basic need. The spiritual discipline of fasting is to teach our body who’s in control. Is our flesh in control or the spirit?
Jennifer Smith: And to put boundaries up there and say, “No, you’re not gonna do that today.”
Aaron Smith: Fasting hurts because the flesh is like, “No, I need food!” You’re like, “Well, even though this hurts I’m gonna say no for a time.” One of the other ways is confession and the areas of our life that God wants cut out, the illustration of circumcision, which is a gross thing but it’s this idea of cutting away the dead flesh. That’s what God wants to do to our hearts. He wants to circumcise our hearts. He wants to cut away all the dead flesh. That’s what our encouragement is in this episode is that we learn the gift of confession for the sake of killing our flesh, to walk in purity, to build oneness in our marriage, to cultivate righteousness and purity in our home and in our relationship.
Jennifer Smith: And that together as a husband and wife, we’re walking out in truth and light because we wanna be like God. We want to serve Him and be like Him and reflect His testimony, and we can’t do that if our marriage is full of darkness and we’re not on the same page or we’re not experiencing that oneness.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, and the reason we do this is not just to get rid of the guilt and shame, which confession absolutely cleanses us from the guilt and shame ’cause we get it out. It’s finally like, “Oh, my gosh, okay, I’m hiding that and all that weight I was feeling from it.” That’s the Holy Spirit impressing on us to confess. If you feel that guilt, that shame, not an ungodly guilt. It’s a godly guilt that says, “Oh, I should not have done that. I made a wrong decision. I need to make this right.” It brings us back into right relationship with our spouse and it helps us to walk in the way God’s called us to walk. The purpose for this is so that our marriage isn’t hindered from doing the ministry that God’s given us to do.
Jennifer Smith: Right.
Aaron Smith: It’s not just to feel shame-free and guilt-free. “Oh, good, I got it off my chest.” No, it’s so that we as a team can walk in oneness in the ministry and in the mission that God has for us.
Jennifer Smith: That’s really good
Aaron Smith: The enemy wants to take it all away. He wants to take away our effectiveness.
Jennifer Smith: That’s true, and the enemy will lie to us and convince us that we don’t need to confess about that little thing over there that turns into a really big thing.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, you’ll take of it next time. Just be better next time.
Jennifer Smith: Oh, my goodness. That’s happened so many times in our marriage.
Aaron Smith: Every single time, yeah.
Jennifer Smith: All kinds of different lies, lies surrounding insecurities or fears about how your spouse will respond. “They just won’t love me if I tell them that.” There’s so many ways that he tries to convince us of not confessing and we wanna be an encouragement to you guys today from a couple that has struggled really hard with different kinds of sins and has confessed it. It’s a beautiful thing.
Aaron Smith: And found healing from it.
Jennifer Smith: It’s worth it and it’s vital and it’s essential for your marriage to be able to thrive and be in a place where you trust each other, where you have a safe zone, where you know you’re probably gonna mess up but you are both walking in truth and light, where you are more prone not to mess up because of that practice of confession and you know that it’s coming if you do that thing. I just wanna encourage them listening that it really is a beautiful thing and our marriage has seen the fruit of it.
Aaron Smith: Let’s move on to how to confess to your spouse. This is the sticky part and there’s no easy way to do it, but there’s correct ways to do it. But before we start that, I wanna read James 5:16.
It says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great powers as it is working.”
I wanted to bring that up because, again, one of the main reasons our point in this episode is to confess to your spouse, it says to confess to one another, the closest one another, as I always say your closest neighbor is your spouse. We confess to them, like I said, to kill the flesh and so that we will be healed. Personally, it wasn’t until I started confessing correctly that I actually started finding healing in the area of pornography. It was when I started realizing, “I’m actually gonna do this all the way because I want that part of my flesh, that sin nature, I want that area of my sin, that area of my flesh, to die. I want it dead. I don’t want it anymore.”
Confessing correctly helps do that, and let’s talk through some of the points that we came up with in this idea of how to go to your spouse and confess correctly.
Jennifer Smith: Before we move on, I wanted to just interject here. When I think about this verse about confessing for healing, I think of all the emotional effects of sin and how it hardens your heart, the guilt, the shame, the embarrassment, the insecurity, all those negative-
Aaron Smith: The anger.
Jennifer Smith: The anger, the frustration, I mean, there’s so many negative feelings wrapped up in our hearts when we sin and when I hear this verse, I think of freedom from all of that. I think of healing the heart. I just wanna make sure that I pointed that out because as a woman and being an emotional being and that God created us to experience emotions, I think it’s important that we know that God has a cure for us to be healed in those ways, especially when it comes to our marriage relationship because that’s the first ignition point for just being fuel for emotions.
Aaron Smith: The first thing I wanna bring up, it’s not actually in our notes, but it’s recognizing on both parties that Christ has forgiven us of everything. He forgave us the worst crimes and not just ours, but the whole world’s. If Christ can do it, we should be able to do it. I just wanted to start there with understanding not just the confession side but the forgiveness side, that there’s nothing your spouse can do against you that’s worse than what we did to God and the separation that we had and that Christ took all of that on His own body and crucified it.
Starting there with this understanding, and this is actually how our relationship, our marriage, got healed in the first place, not from this confession side of things but recognizing that there’s nothing Jennifer could ever do to me that is worse than what I’ve done to God in my own sin and the separation I had from God. That helped me get to a point of recognizing, “Wow, I should be able to forgive anything. If I can’t,” the Bible tells us if you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. It’s a scary Scripture. We just wanna have this understanding of forgiveness.
Let’s go into a few of these points now of how to come to your spouse with a right heart of confession.
Jennifer Smith: Well, I would say just starting off that honesty is the key. The point of confession is to be honest, transparent. This is the message of Unveiled Wife if you guys have been following Unveiled Wife or read “The Unveiled Wife.” It’s this idea of we’re supposed to be fully transparent. When you go into confession, you don’t wanna tell half truths. You don’t wanna just tell enough to be able to get that relief off your chest. You wanna tell the whole truth. You wanna be all-encompassing and just hand it over and be super transparent because otherwise you’re not being honest.
Aaron Smith: This is what I did whenever I’d come to confess to you early on, ’cause I would confess a lot because I hated the shame, I hated the guilt. The Holy Spirit was impressing upon me, but my way of confessing was to minimize and minimizing is essentially saying, “Oh, I messed up but-”
Jennifer Smith: It was just a little thing.
Aaron Smith: “It was just a little thing. It kind of happened.”
Jennifer Smith: Be vague about it.
Aaron Smith: “I was vague and I just want you to know I’m really sorry about it and I want you to forgive me.”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: My wife over here, she can feel that I was minimizing whether she would say it or not. What I’m doing is that I’m lying. Minimizing is lying. It’s not truth. I started practicing telling the whole truth. That doesn’t mean I gave 100% of the details, but I was fully truthful as in I would say, “Babe, I messed up. I chose,” ’cause this is the key, “I didn’t stumble into, I didn’t accidentally consume, I chose to do this. I watched this and I need to ask for forgiveness for that. It was wrong and this is what I did and when I did it.”
Jennifer Smith: Actually, I experienced that when you’re fully transparent, honest, there’s a lot more to the conversation like, “This is how it made me feel.” I got actually more perspective of your heart and what you were going through at that time versus just this, “Whoop, there it is.”
Aaron Smith: The minimizing, that made sure that I was able to get enough out to make sure that my shame and guilt was taken care of, my “I confessed.” But I was really still protecting my sin.
Jennifer Smith: It left a lot of insecurity in my heart because I felt like there were things that you weren’t telling me that you should-
Aaron Smith: ‘Cause I wasn’t telling you all.
Jennifer Smith: -that you could have to help heal that part of our marriage, but I would say that honesty is super important for our own sakes, too, not just for our spouse. But the point is not just to confess to get that itch off your chest. The point of confession is to shine that light. When you shine a flashlight in a corner, it lights everything up, not just a portion of the corner. It lights up the whole corner. That’s my-
Aaron Smith: The analogy would be this. Let’s say I had a cut and it’s infected. That’s our sin in our life. If the infection’s bad enough, you gotta cut it all out. You can’t just clean it up and put a bandaid over it and-
Jennifer Smith: Or some people just try and put a bandaid over it. They don’t even clean it. They’re just like, “Oh, bandaid.”
Aaron Smith: What happens is it gets worse.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. Then you gotta rip the bandaid off and it hurts.
Aaron Smith: Then you gotta cut more away.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, that’s good.
Aaron Smith: Then if you don’t take care of it, it gets worse. Eventually you’re amputating an arm. Or eventually you get a blood disease and you die. That same analogy is exactly what’s happening when we minimize. You know, when you minimize, when you come to confession and you minimize usually what’s happening is you’ve already minimized before you got to confession. The littler things that led you to that decision, you’ve told yourself, “That’s not a big deal.”
Jennifer Smith: You’ve also already justified in your heart that you should be forgiven and it wasn’t a big deal and that you wanna move on or your spouse is not in that place yet.
Aaron Smith: Which leads me to the idea of repentance. Repentance and confession are two different things. Confession is saying what you’ve done and that you were wrong. You’re shining a light. Repentance is the heart that you do it in.
Jennifer Smith: When you’re talking about confessing correctly, this is what you’re talking about.
Aaron Smith: This is what I’m talking about. All of those other times that I confessed, I was confessing just because I felt bad. “Oh, I feel dirty.” When I started confessing and not minimizing and not downplaying and not hiding, but confessing fully and repenting and my repentant heart is, “I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not gonna fall back into that. I’m not going to hurt you anymore in this way because I don’t like hurting you. I don’t like hurting God,” because really I’m sinning against my Father. But you’re the one that I’ve done it against. Confession with a repentant heart. They have to go hand in hand. If you’re confessing just to get it off your chest, your heart’s not repentant.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. I wanna read Matthew 3:8. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Just that idea that’s a continual thing.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, the heart, a repentant heart, is one that is constantly saying, “I’m starting to look the wrong direction. I’m gonna look back and what my Father’s direction.”
Jennifer Smith: Again, it’s what you’re choosing.
Aaron Smith: I’m gonna choose to go this way. I was going this way. I chose that, now I’m gonna go this way. I come to my wife and I say, “I broke covenant with you. I sinned against you. I did this and I repent.”
Jennifer Smith: It’s so much more than just an acknowledgement of your sin. It’s actually a heart change. It’s saying, “I’m not gonna do that anymore” and you’re committing to not doing it anymore.
Aaron Smith: Yeah, so confession and repentance, they have to go hand in hand in full truth, no minimizing, no downplaying, no hiding. Just get it out.
Jennifer Smith: One thing I do wanna touch on is for the person on the receiving end, whether it’s the husband or the wife, first of all there has to be an agreeance and a safe zone. You have to be able to give each other permission to confess and to say really hard things that could hurt you.
Aaron Smith: Will hurt you.
Jennifer Smith: That will hurt you, I know, I always forget that it is going to hurt. If there’s no atmosphere or security in coming to one another, that’s gonna make confession even harder. I feel like we’ve done a really good job in our marriage of giving each other that space to just say, “Hey, I need to talk.” A big part of that is picking a right time. Don’t choose to go into confession when you’re walking into a restaurant to meet your family.
Aaron Smith: I’m notoriously bad at this.
Jennifer Smith: You used to be. You’re better now.
Aaron Smith: Yeah.
Jennifer Smith: But just make sure that you’re choosing the right time to confess and then on the other end that you’re not waiting for the perfect time to confess and that never comes. Don’t justify, “Oh, I just never got around to it.” Be really mindful of that. But my encouragement here is that the person on the receiving end is willing to process this confession with their spouse, walk through it with them, and be forgiving. I just wanna move to Luke 14:3-4. Do you wanna read that?
Aaron Smith: “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Jennifer Smith: We wanted to bring this up because I think that being in the marriage ministry, we get a lot of, “How many times am I supposed to forgive my husband for this?” Or, “How many times am I supposed to forgive my wife for this?” Jesus makes it pretty clear here.
Aaron Smith: Yeah. Essentially what Jesus is saying here, He’s saying the amount of times that God forgave the Jewish people when they were in rebellion, He’s saying you should forgive your brother. Having that heart of forgiveness on the party that’s being confessed to, I would add to this is if you have a heart of just waiting for your spouse to trip up and, “Oh, I knew it. This is the time, now I have the excuse to walk away. Now I have the excuse to get on them the way I’ve wanted to get on them.” Your heart’s wrong. Now, this isn’t to say that you’re not gonna be hurt. The fact that we’ve sinned, you’re already hurt. Sin causes death. Sin is painful. We’re not saying that you’re not allowed to be hurt by this and not allowed to have emotions about it, but if you both have a mentality in this marriage that, “I’m here for the other person, I’m one with them, I’m about reconciliation, I’m about righteousness, I’m about purity, and I’m gonna be obedient to what the Father has called me to, and I’m about forgiveness,” what that means is when your spouse does confess to you, your heart’s not in a place of, “Finally I have the excuse I’ve been waiting for.”
Jennifer Smith: Right. Or questioning, “How many times do I have forgive you?” I also wanna say that specifically in marriage, the goal is reconciliation.
Aaron Smith: Always.
Jennifer Smith: Confession is for the goal of reconciliation. It’s not to hurt the other person. It’s not just to get it off your chest. But it’s actually so that there’s light throughout the marriage and reconciliation constantly happening. Because marriage is such a unique relationship and such an intimate relationship, that reconciliation process should and could be happening all the time, regularly.
Aaron Smith: Just like the relationship between Christ and the church is a bride and groom and we always talk about this that the marriage relationship is God’s favorite symbol and representation of the Gospel. Our confession and repentance, our confession and forgiveness, is continually showing how the Gospel works.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: We confess to our Father, He forgives us. We have that responsibility in our marriage. Now, that doesn’t mean I confess to you, it’s really hard, and you’re just hurt ’cause that is reality and you’re like, “Alright, I forgive you. I’m over it.” That’s not reality. Actually, when I started confessing to you, what I would do, and this is another point, is I don’t come and confess to you and you don’t come confess to me and then immediately start explaining, “Now you need to forgive me. Wait, I’ve confessed, I’ve repented, now you need to give me and treat me the way I think you need to treat me.” Actually, when I come to confess, when you come to confess, when you confess to your spouse, that’s the only responsibility you have. You need to trust the Lord with your spouse’s heart. What I started doing is I would come to confess and I would just not say anything else. I would confess, I would say all of it, and I knew you were hurt. I wouldn’t try and justify and I wouldn’t try and just say, “Well, hey, can we just be better now?” I just let it. I just let it out.
Jennifer Smith: Which actually really helped me process what the confession was and what my response should be and instead of hearing a justification or an excuse or-
Aaron Smith: Or hurrying you along to forgiving me.
Jennifer Smith: Or hurrying me along, I was actually able to go back to the Father and say, “God, how do I? What do I?” You know?
Aaron Smith: “I’m hurt, what do I do now?”
Jennifer Smith: Yeah. Again, as we practice confession and practice reconciliation, it becomes a little bit of a quicker process for me depending on what the confession is, but-
Aaron Smith: Well, it definitely becomes quicker because I think the things that we’re confessing get smaller and smaller because we’re finding healing.
Jennifer Smith: Right.
Aaron Smith: You know, the goal is to not continue in the things like, “Oh, we have this plan of confession and that’s how we fix things.” No, the goal of confession is to-
Jennifer Smith: Be refined.
Aaron Smith: -kill the deeds of the flesh and be refined and justified. Yeah, justification, and sanctified. Over time, I know the sins have gotten smaller.
Jennifer Smith: The process becomes quicker. That makes sense. But I was gonna encourage those listening that as much as you have to have that save zone for confession, you have to have that space for the other person to respond. That’s what you’re touching on is just once you confess and you share your part, you have to allow your spouse that time to share their part. I remember in the beginning of our marriage, you would get even more hurt when I expressed any sort of emotion, if I cried over it or if I got angry or frustrated. I think it’s really important that the people confessing should know that their spouse is probably gonna be affected by it as far as emotionally and that it’s important to allow that to happen. That person who is responding emotionally shouldn’t be overly dramatic about it. You’re still responsible for your part and to have self-control. To be lashing out in anger and things, I wouldn’t say that that’s okay. I would say that you’re allowed to show and express emotions-
Aaron Smith: You might even be justified.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, but you should still have self-control in those-
Aaron Smith: Well, by confessing and not controlling your spouse’s response, ’cause that’s what I- I didn’t wanna feel the pain of it. I didn’t wanna see the pain of it. There was a book we read that said, “Your spouse is a full-length mirror reflecting your sin back at you.” What that means is I confess. I started allowing you to actually reflect my sin at me.
Jennifer Smith: What it was, it was actually a consequence of your sin that helped-
Aaron Smith: Absolutely was.
Jennifer Smith: -refine you because when you saw the hurt in me, you realized, “I can’t be doing that anymore.”
Aaron Smith: I don’t want to hurt you.
Jennifer Smith: That’s the beauty of marriage, though, is it become this beautiful process of sanctification. We help each other.
Aaron Smith: If we let it happen.
Jennifer Smith: If we let it, yeah.
Aaron Smith: This idea of confessing and not controlling your spouse’s response.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: Letting your spouse have time to say what they wanna say, to go pray, to go away if they need to for a time to think, to pray through it, to ask the Father for direction is the more appropriate way to confess. We don’t go to God and confess our sins and say, “Okay, Lord, now just everything’s good. You have to now treat me this way.” Now, the Father does treat us well. He treats us good. But it says that our Father’s a good Father and He disciplines those He loves.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: Do we say, “Okay, no, Father. I already did this thing. You don’t have to discipline me now?” We don’t get to do that. My children don’t get to do that to me. If my children need discipline, they need discipline. If we need discipline, we need discipline. A part of this relationship in our marriage by me confessing, I should not control my spouse’s response to my confession. My job is to confess and repent, her job is to process that and deal with it and pray through it and respond. We don’t make our spouse forgive us. It doesn’t work that way. I used to do that, but by doing that all I was doing was managing the pain that I was feeling. I didn’t wanna feel it. I didn’t want my flesh to feel the pain I was feeling, see the hurt on your face, see the shame, the disgust. I didn’t want to deal with any of that.
Jennifer Smith: But if we’re called to put our deeds of flesh to death, is it gonna hurt?
Aaron Smith: It’s gonna hurt.
Jennifer Smith: It’s gonna hurt.
Aaron Smith: But it needs to.
Jennifer Smith: But it needs to.
Aaron Smith: Because the pain that we felt in seeing it be played out, by me confessing or you confessing and you seeing those, is way less painful than the death that we could feel if we didn’t.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah.
Aaron Smith: Divorce or worse. I just wanna encourage you listening. The pain that you might see on your spouse’s face is gonna be significantly less painful than not saying anything and letting the sin fully grow.
Jennifer Smith: And corrupt your marriage.
Aaron Smith: And corrupt your marriage into death. We just wanna encourage you that confession is a beautiful thing and is a hard thing. But we need to do it.
Jennifer Smith: We know that this episode was a little bit deeper and harder to wrap your hearts around because it’s not an easy thing to confess to your spouse, but it is a necessary thing like we’ve shared and we just hope that this would spur you on to evaluate your lives. If there is sin in your life, if there is darkness in your life or in your marriage, that you would shine a light on it and talk to your spouse about it. Talk to God about it and receive that healing that He has for you.
Aaron Smith: One final point. Your main accountability partner in life is your spouse. They’re gonna walk with you through everything. Might as well walk through the sanctification process with each other and not avoid it. That doesn’t mean don’t have other accountability partners. We both do. We all do. But your spouse is your main accountability partner.
Jennifer Smith: Yeah, and for that spouse that is the accountability partner, make sure that you are representing just how God would. Have the mercy, have the grace, have the forgiveness for your spouse and what they’re walking through and see them through the eyes of Jesus. I think that’s the biggest thing I can help encourage you with is to see your spouse as Jesus sees them.
Aaron Smith: We just wanna thank you for joining us this week and we hope and pray that you would go home with your spouse and you guys would have good conversations about this and we hope that good fruit comes from this. See you next week.
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