How to Respond to a Confession
What do you do when someone you love comes to you and tells you something shocking that you were not expecting to hear? Maybe they share a sin issue that they are currently struggling with, or a confession that someone has sinned against them in a profound way. Whatever it is, they have trusted you with their pain, the weight they have been carrying, and the hurt that has kept them in brokenness. How do you respond when someone comes to you and asks for help?
1) Don't try to fix it
Your friend or family told you this because they trust you, not because they expect you to make it better. More than anything, be a friend; give support and honest advice. It is not on your shoulders to solve the problem. The responsibility of a trusted friend is listening and responding with grace and truth. Your goal is to create a safe place for them to share.
2) Don't react. Respond.
If someone trusts you enough to share what is on their heart, the worst thing you can do is to react inappropriately. If you feel sad or angry, express that appropriately. Control your emotions instead of being controlled by them, so that you can truly help the person who has shared with you. Instead of reacting, respond to them with love and compassion. Respond to them with the same grace and hope you would desire to receive if you were in a similar situation. You have an opportunity to be a reminder of how God feels about them at a time they most need to hear it. Use the Word of God to bring life and hope and never as a tool for condemnation or guilt.
3) Ask God what to say
If someone is willing to talk about a deep secret with you, God has already begun a good work in their heart. God always finishes what He starts. His kindness leads to repentance, and His love heals our hearts. Believe God can use you in this situation, and listen for how He wants you to comfort and counsel them. If you don't know what to say, take time to just pray with that person and seek the Lord together. Don't try to manufacture advice.
4) Encourage them that they are doing the right thing by coming forward
God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Isolation is bondage. The purpose of God revealing sin, struggles, or pain is to bring life, hope, healing, and freedom.
5) Point them toward healing
Jesus is our healer and our hope for freedom. There are no quick fixes. God is going to use this season in their lives to reveal lies that they believe about themselves or about Him. Healing and restoration will only come through vulnerability and repentance before the Lord.
6) Point them toward a next step
Do your best to help them identify what the next step is for them in the healing process. You cannot force a person to change behaviors, let go of offenses, or seek other counsel. Your job is to encourage them forward in this healing process. Help them see the choices before them, but stay free of the responsibility to bring about change.
7) Pray for them
Prayer is not a last resort. It is the most powerful thing we can do for someone. A hurt person needs you to pray with them and for them. Pray for them while they are with you and communicate clearly to them that you will continue to pray. When God prompts you to pray in days to come, let them know that you are aware of them and still praying for them.