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8th June: Burden and Liberation

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered... Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Psalm 32:1,11

Carl Gustave Jung mentioned once that people today go to see a psychiatrist, whereas formerly they went to the minister. By this statement he wanted to indicate the need to learn to deal with guilt and guilt-feelings, in order to maintain mental health. Psalm 32 is a wonderful guideline and help in this direction.

The experience of forgiveness of guilt produces a sense of freedom (vv1-2). Sometimes psychotherapy deals with the (psychic) background of guilt feelings; but the burden will come back after a short time of counselling. Where guilt-feelings are a symptom of neurosis, depression or psychic reaction to inner or outer conflicts, we have to be aware of two abnormal aspects: either we suppress the guilt (feelings), accentuating the inner conflict, or we exaggerate them, using them as a hanger (pretext) for other hidden conflicts. There are depressive people who exaggerate their guilt-conscience, accusing themselves even of the sin against the Holy Spirit. Instead of discussing with the patient whether his guilt-feelings are 'real' or just an expression of depression, it is better to follow an empirical way: offer him forgiveness. If he accepts it and feels free: then it was a matter of authentic guilt. If the guilt-feelings come back then it is a psychological matter, and treatment is medical or psychological.

Even if people in olden days liked to exaggerate, the expression 'When I declared not my sin, by body wasted away (v3a) is most illustrative. The whole person suffers and is confused. the expression 'through my groaning all day long' reveals a depressive mood.

It seems that verses 3-4 express a spiritual condition rather than a depression in the medical sense, for verse 5 relates the experience of God's grace in the forgiveness of sin. Verses 1 and 6-7 show the real result of confession of sin: they express mental comfort, and demonstrate the healing power of prayer. The 'godly' person is the person who admits his powerlessness, and is ready to accept God's help.

Verses 8-10 teach us the divine aspect of faith. Most people think of faith as human trust in God's help. But faith means also that God himself believes in us, and trusts us as a father his child. Thus faith is a bi-polar action: man trust God and God offers man his grace and trust. Therefore faith represents a personal relationship. This is the experience of witnesses in both Old and New Testaments. We are invited to a similar experience, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the guarantee of its realisation.

Verse 11 mentions joy as a result of the experience of forgiveness of sin. the 'righteous' man is a person who has had such an experience. Is there a better sign of mental health than to live with such a joy? The words of Psalm 66:20 are then a very real prayer of thanksgiving:

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer
or removed his steadfast love from me.

Further reading: Ps 32.


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