On a hot Tuesday night last summer, as the crickets and the frogs sang in the dark outside, I sat inside a friend’s dimly lit living room with several other women from church. We were discussing a book that our group had been reading that summer when the conversation began to turn to the topic of parenting. As one of the only women in the group without children, I was momentarily tempted to tune out, assuming I wouldn’t be able to relate to the talk of toddler temper tantrums and fourth-grade field trips. But then, someone said something that completely captured my attention.
One woman, recounting the challenges of raising small children, began to talk about the unique way that parenting often reveals her own sinfulness—her shortcomings and struggles, her failures and mistakes.
Around the circle, woman after woman chimed in, each sharing her own stories from the parenting journey. And though I don’t have children yet, I quickly realized I could relate to each of these women and the stories they shared.
In my closest relationships with others—marriage, family, friendships—I often see my own sin on display. And I wonder if the same is true for you, too. Somehow, it is often our most intimate relationships that expose our sinful human nature. And while it can be discouraging to see our sin exposed through our relationships with others, what if these moments can actually be seen as a gift of grace?
A Gift of Grace
What are the relationships that most often expose your sinfulness? Is it a relationship with a roommate? With your family of origin? Or the way you parent your own children?
For me, I see my sinful nature exposed most often in marriage. I see it in the frustrating moments when I am too quick to speak and too slow to listen, in the self-centered moments when I put my own desires first, in the prideful moments when I am unwilling to admit I was wrong, and in so many moments in between.
Each of these experiences feels like a road sign pointing directly to my own fallenness. And, as someone who has been a believer for many years now, these moments can feel quite discouraging—especially when it feels like I deal with the same sins over and over again. If I’m not careful, I can catch myself wondering, Shouldn’t I have this all sorted out by now?
While we should indeed lament our sin, what if there is a different way to look at these painful moments? As discouraging as they may feel at the time, what if they are actually a unique opportunity for us to see our need for a Savior more clearly?
Now, of course, God does not desire sin for us; after all, God clearly instructs His people: “Be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44–45, 19:2, 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16). But God does promise to use all things for our good and His glory—even the hard things (Romans 8:28). What if God wants to use these painful moments to expose not only our own sinfulness but also how much we need Him? What if it is these very moments that can propel us to rely on Jesus more and more as we slowly but surely grow in sanctification?
What to Do When Confronted with Your Own Sin
So, what are we to do in the moments in our relationships—with our spouses, kids, friends, roommates, coworkers, or fellow church members—when our own sin becomes painfully evident? Here are four steps that may be helpful.
The moments that expose our own sinfulness can often make us want to run and hide. We rarely want to address our own sin, and this can sometimes lead us to ignore or downplay it. Proverbs 28:13 speaks to this desire when it says, “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” Similarly, James 5:16 instructs us to confess our sins to one another, and 1 John 1:9 reminds us that God is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When confronted with our own sin, we first must acknowledge it—to ourselves, to our God, and to others.
Closely related to the idea of confession is the idea of repentance. When we repent, we acknowledge our wrongdoing. But repentance does not only involve admitting our sin; it involves turning away from sin and turning toward Christ. We depend on Him as we desire to walk away from sin and into obedience. And as we do so, we keep our eyes on Jesus, the “source and perfecter of our faith,” knowing that He will help us run with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1–2).
3. Thank God.
As uncomfortable as it can be to be confronted with our own sinfulness, especially in our relationships with other people, we can view these moments as gifts of grace from our good God. While Christ makes us new creations at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17), the work of sanctification is ongoing, and it isn’t always easy. Even in the moments we fail, we can thank God for the ways He continues to work in our lives through all circumstances.
4. Trust God.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he calls each of us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). But, in the very next verse, Paul reminds us that this is not something we do alone. He writes, “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purposes” (Philippians 2:13). In the moments when we are confronted with our own sinfulness, we can take comfort in the fact that God is still working in us. The process of sanctification is lifelong, and it is initiated by God, who will always be faithful to finish the good work He starts (Philippians 1:6).
Remember God’s Faithfulness
So, the next time you are confronted with your own sinfulness, remember that God is continuing His good work in you. Don’t hide from your sinfulness, but instead, commit to the hard but holy work of confession, repentance, and turning to Him as you live in relationship with others in this broken world. And thank God for the opportunities He gives you to rely on Him as He conforms you more to the image of His beloved Son (Romans 8:29).
If you are in Christ, you can take comfort in the glorious truth that Jesus has already justified you, making you right in the eyes of the Father. And Jesus will be faithful to finish His work, bringing you to glorification, one day, too (Romans 8:30).
Additional resources on sin