Lord, show me the impact of my sin

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

In the recovery movement, step 4 is daunting yet potentially life-altering one: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In this step, the individual in recovery usually works with a sponsor to examine their past substance abuse or other sins and how they have affected themselves or others, resisting the desire to blame anyone else.

I have been thinking about this step lately as our church has been taking part in a 21-day fast. When I was 21, my walk with God was changed as a result of a scary yet bold prayer which God eventually saw fit to answer (at least partially): “God, show me the depth of my sin.” I had become a follower of Jesus at 18, but still never honestly saw myself as much of a sinner. I was a good kid that God has chosen for His team, so to speak. But 6 months after that prayer, God pulled back the curtain and showed me how even in my most holy moments, I was filled with a selfish desire for my own glory. I was finally learning the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:3). Blessed are those who realize how spiritually bankrupt they are before a holy God, with a debt of sin that only Jesus can pay.

Over the past couple of weeks, my prayer has been just as scary yet bold: “God, show me the impact that my sin has on others.” This prayer calls to mind the second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). My understanding of this verse is that Jesus is telling his listeners that blessed are those who not only realize their spiritual bankruptcy, but see how their sin has negatively impacted themselves, others, and God, and grieve because of it. I am praying that God would help me to truly allow my heart to be broken by the ways that my sin negatively impacts others, so that He might have broken and repentant ground from which to bring deeper spiritual life and love and holiness.

One prayer that has helped me to access this heart-level understanding has been a prayer called “Self-Knowledge” from an incredible Puritan prayerbook called The Valley of Vision. I encourage you to read and pray this through slowly and thoughtfully:
Searcher of hearts,
It is a good day to me when thou givest me
a glimpse of myself;
Sin is my greatest evil,
But thou art my greatest good;
I have cause to loathe myself,
And not to seek self-honour,
For no one desires to commend his own dunghill.
My country, family, church
Fare worse because of my sins,
For sinners bring judgment in thinking sins are small,
Or that god is not angry with them.
Let me not take other good men as my example,
And think that I am good because I am like them,
For all good men are not so good as thou desirest,
Are not always consistent,
Do not always follow holiness,
Do not feel eternal good in sore affliction.
Show me how to know when a thing is evil
Which I think is right and good,
How to know when what is lawful
Comes from an evil principle,
Such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.
Give me grace to recall my needs,
My lack of knowing thy will in Scripture,
Of wisdom to guide others,
Of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee at bay,
Of the spirit of prayer, having words without love,
Of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,
Of joy in thee and thy will,
Of love to others.
And let me not lay my pipe too short of the fountain,
Never touching the eternal spring,
Never drawing down water from above.

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