This is the week of RAGBRAI–the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. I’m not sure who plans these things, but RAGBRAI always seems to be scheduled for the hottest part of the summer. I admire all those bikers who brace themselves and ride the 70 or so miles each day through the Iowa heat. I lost 5 pounds, all in sweat, just by working in the yard last weekend. That’s what Iowa humidity does to you. I’m not sure how those bikers do it.
I have a hard time being motivated to exert myself when it’s hot. Unless I’m prepared for it and totally committed, humidity drains my energy and saps my will to work.
Feverish summer heat reminds me of Psalm 32, where David likened the physical experience of withering heat to the feeling of unrest in his soul when he tried to cover up and ignore his offensive behavior:
“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”
As much as we’d like to believe the contrary, the indisputable fact is this: every living soul has a crooked and deceptive heart. A little bit of selfishness motivates our every word, every action. We’re really good at covering up our messes and appearing well-behaved, happy, and congenial on the outside. We’re not so good at owning up to our wrongs.
If you’re like me, you’d like to believe you are above sin–corruption, envy, pride, anger, and the like–but the harsh reality is that these are unavoidable. Chances are, you’ve already offended someone, ignored someone’s pain and suffering, or coveted someone else’s stuff today.
The price we pay for ignoring the reality of our sin, being negligent and pretending it doesn’t exist, is a withering, sluggish soul, weighed down and weary as if laboring in oppressive heat. That’s the condition of our soul when the Lord’s hand is heavy upon us. Many recoil at the thought that God deals heavy-handedly with His people, but He has always claimed to be just, so it should come as no surprise that He takes no pleasure in seeing wrongs committed and will never turn a blind eye when we mistreat others or vice versa. That’s actually a good thing for us. He makes no apologies for His unilateral judgment of sin, regardless of who commits it. There will always be consequences for sin. As a good friend of mine once said so simply and yet so profoundly, “sin is never a good idea.”
The way to escape the heavy hand of God is simple: ask Him to forgive you. Simple, yet somehow difficult for many of us. We have a hard time admitting our mistakes. We don’t like to be in the wrong. We’ve got to get over that. Instead of weary and fatigued, the soul of the confessor is affirmed, courageous, and at rest. In his first line in Psalm 32, David celebrates the freedom he experiences in forgiveness, saying, “how blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
Forgiveness was purchased for us by Jesus Christ. It was a very dear price, for He willingly bled and died on our behalf. His death provided the means for us to come to God whenever we sin, and to be cleansed from our offenses, great and small. Jesus’ blood is a powerful, atoning agent that can cover our sin. It purges, cleanses, and washes our soul so that we can have a clear conscience before God.
Escape the fever heat of summer and find refreshment in the forgiveness that comes when we confess our sins before God. As the apostle John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
- Jeremiah 17:9
- Romans 2:9-11
- I John 1:9