When I Kept Silent (Psalm 32)

Sometimes, there is suffering in our lives that’s more like a stomach flu: we don’t really know why it’s happening, but it feels terrible. Just when we think it’s done, we get hit again. And while others can comfort us and we can treat the symptoms as much as possible, we know that ultimately we just need to wait it out. But other times, suffering has a cause; we’ve done something unwise or irresponsible, and brought a pain upon ourselves that won’t be stopped until we get that source of corruption out of us.

Today we’re going to look at Psalm 32, which is an interesting psalm, a mixed bag of genres, including aspects of praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving. And we’re going to be reminded about the character of the God we serve, and how gracious he truly is, despite our foolishness. As we read through the text today, we’re going to see three principles or realities about our relationship with God, each followed by an example of how that reality can or ought to be demonstrated in life.


When I was in the second and third year of my undergrad, I lived by myself in a little bachelor basement apartment in the south end of Guelph. One night, I was on my way home late from some friends’ house, and I missed the bus, so I had to kill a half hour while I waited for the next one. During this time, I realized I was incredibly hungry, and there just so happened to be a little pizza place I had never tried in the plaza by the bus stop. I remember walking in, and the employee almost looking shocked that there was a customer (which should have been my first red flag).

Nonetheless, I ordered a slice from the display, and went back to eat it at the bus stop. The pizza was overpriced, mediocre at best, and heated to that sketchy not-quite hot, but not-quite cold temperature. That should have been the second red flag, but hey, when you’re 20 and hungry, eating a slice of pizza at midnight while you wait for the bus, you don’t really care about stuff like that. Well, the bus came, I made it home, and I went to bed.

I remember waking up earlier than expected, with feelings in my stomach that immediately brought about panic and an urgency to get to the one other room in my little apartment as soon as absolutely possible. I’ll spare you the details and just say that one of the reasons this event sticks in my memory over 10 years later is because it was my first time getting sick while living alone, without someone to take care of me. I knew if I wanted gingerale or plain crackers, or anything to comfort nausea, I would actually have to go leave my house on my own to get them. But miraculously, I didn’t need any of those things, because rather than the stomach flu I feared, upon getting that pizza “out of my system”, I immediately started to feel better. A bit of water and some more sleep, and I was back to normal by mid-day.

Sometimes, there is suffering in our lives that’s more like a stomach flu: we don’t really know why it’s happening, but it feels terrible. Just when we think it’s done, we get hit again. And while others can comfort us and we can treat the symptoms as much as possible, we know that ultimately we just need to wait it out. But other times, suffering has a cause; we’ve done something unwise or irresponsible, and brought a pain upon ourselves that won’t be stopped until we get that source of corruption out of us.

Today we’re going to look at Psalm 32, which is an interesting psalm, a mixed bag of genres, including aspects of praise, wisdom, and thanksgiving. And we’re going to be reminded that sometimes our sin is like a piece of sketchy, midnight, bus-stop pizza: it’s not satisfying, not worth it, and when we keep it inside it can be messy, sickening, and painful.

But thankfully, we aren’t going to stop there, because this Psalm ultimately reminds us about the character of the God we serve, and how gracious he truly is, despite our foolishness. As we read through the text today, we’re going to see three principles or realities about our relationship with God, each followed by an example of how that reality can or ought to be demonstrated in life.

To keep it pithy, we’re going to see three pairs of C’s: Contentment when we confess, comfort when we call, and cheer when we comply.

Let’s start by reading the Psalm.

Contentment When We Confess (1–5):

This psalm opens with David detailing a reality about God’s character by making a fairly generic statement, that could apply to anyone, and yet as we’ll see in the following verses, it clearly comes from his own personal experience and understanding.

How blessed is he whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is a person whose guilt the Lord does not take into account,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Psalm 32:1–2 NASB

To quote a certain pastor from his sermon on the beatitudes in Matthew 5, “The word used here for ‘blessed’ carries the idea of divine congratulations or approval. It’s a proclamation, not a possibility. A declaration more than a desired results.” That is to say, blessing, or contentment, or happiness is a reality for those who are forgiven, whose “guilt the Lord does not take into account.”

From a statement like this, we might draw a couple of conclusions: if you have sin in your life that is hindering your happiness, clearly you need to figure out how to experience the forgiveness offered by God. Maybe that means confessing sin before him. Maybe it means letting go of sins already confessed but still held onto. In fact, David is so intent on his readers experiencing this blessing that he basically repeats the same idea three different times, each with different words:

  • Wrongdoing, or transgression: forgiven (literally “carried away” in Hebrew)
  • Sin: covered (atonement)
  • Guilt, or iniquity: not taken into account (justified)

As one commentator explains, “The three words here do not signify three distinct kinds of sin, because the synonyms overlap. The psalmist declares that the forgiveness of sin, of whatever kind—whether against God or man, whether great or small, whether conscientious or inadvertent, or whether by omission or commission—is to be found in God.” (VanGemeren, 271).

In other words: the solution to sin of any kind comes from God. David also makes reference here to the idea of hidden sin, when he says, “in whose spirit there is no deceit” which basically means “the person who isn’t pretending that they can keep their sin hidden from God”.

Now, to all of this, I’m sure many of us would say “amen!” Anyone who has experienced forgiveness from God, or even from people, knows the feeling of freedom and contentment and blessing that comes when we know the slate has been wiped clean, and that our wrongdoing isn’t held against us.

And again, if you haven’t had that experience, you don’t know what it is to truly be blessed by the forgiveness of your sins, you don’t feel like you’re forgivable or that your sins have truly been lifted away; my hope is that by the end of this passage that will change. And to help that process, David now switches to the personal, detailing his own experience with the effects of hidden sin.

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 failed as with the dry heat of summer. 

Psalm 32:3–4 NASB

I wonder how many of us, when struggling in a weighty season, would even consider the possibility that we had caused it. That it could be a direct consequence for our actions. Yet here, that’s exactly what David does. He is clear that the suffering he is going through, his body wasting away, is a form of discipline from God for unconfessed sin.

Now, let me pause quickly and make an important acknowledgement, so no one can say I didn’t say it: suffering is not always punishment for our sin. A great example would be the first few verses of John 9:

“As Jesus passed by, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

John 9:1–3 NASB

So if you are in a season of suffering, I am not saying you deserve it, or you brought it on yourself, or that God is mad at you. What I am saying is we ought to at least consider the reality that our sin can bring consequences, and sometimes those consequences are going to involve discipline from our loving heavenly Father. Notice that even though Jesus explains the purpose of the man’s blindness, the first instinct of his followers is that it is punishment for sin, and Jesus doesn’t correct that concept.

In the case of David, he is facing physical ramifications—a failing vitality—for sin kept within. But thankfully, he also lets us in on the solution:

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And I did not hide my guilt;
I said, “I will confess my wrongdoings to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. 

Psalm 32:5 NASB

Again, the same three words: sin, guilt, wrongdoings. He brings them out of the darkness and into the light: confessing, acknowledging, no longer hiding. And in response to all of that, we see how quickly it was removed. “You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Like a massive weight being lifted: I confessed, you forgave. And as we read above, that forgiveness brings blessed contentment, as David doesn’t hold on, he moves on.

The reality is that our sin brings consequences, and confession and forgiveness doesn’t mean we are necessarily going to be immediately free of those consequences. But what we see in David’s example here is that the sin we keep hidden inside weighs us down with guilt and suffering, and God’s forgiveness frees us of that burden. I’ll put an asterisk next to “hidden” there, because there really is no such thing as keeping sin hidden from God.

Many of you know about me that I’m a rule follower, and I always have been. I like to do what I’m told, especially when the opposite brings chance of being caught. Yet we all struggle with temptation and doing stupid things. Well, another thing about me is that I’m a terrible liar. And it just so happened, when I was a kid, the only times I would really try to lie was when I had broken the rules, done something stupid, and wanted to stop myself from getting in trouble or getting really embarrassed.

There was that time I tried to stay inside during recess in an empty classroom finishing some homework I forgot to do, and one of the teachers caught me. I told her “another teacher gave me permission.” She asked “which one?” I said “I don’t remember.” Nailed it.

There was that time when it was cold on the playground, but not like too cold. Clearly not cold enough for a tongue to stick to a metal pole, right? Only one way to prove that. When the teacher handed me a popsicle to sooth my bleeding tongue, she asked why I would do such a thing, I told her it obviously wasn’t intentional. I tripped and fell and went “ahhh” and my tongue got stuck. Yeah. Doubled down on that one with my mom later too. Totally saved myself from looking like an idiot with that one.

To God, our sin is as clear and apparent as a kid who sucks at lying. All the way back in Genesis 3 we see Adam and Eve thinking they can hide their guilt from God, yet it’s so clear to us as the readers that that’s not possible. Do you think I got punished less, or was embarrassed less because I tried to lie about my stupidity? Of course not! If anything, it was probably worse, because not only could they see right through me, I got to add lying and insulting their intelligence to the list of wrongdoings.

God sees our sin. He knows our hearts. And the longer we keep our guilt to ourselves, the more we are going to suffer. Don’t insult the intelligence of the creator, the almighty, the God you follow. Confess your sin before him and embrace the forgiveness and blessed contentment it brings.


The next section of verses builds on the first one. Because our God forgives when we ask, because we receive contentment when we confess, we ought to go to him quickly, regularly, before things get out of hand.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Certainly in a flood of great waters, they will not reach him.

Psalm 32:6 NASB

The picture here is to call for God’s help when you see the flood waters coming, not when you’re already drowning in the waves. We might phrase think about this as keeping a short account with the Lord. Not letting our sins pile up until the weight of guilt crushes down upon us. But turning to him often, regularly, and quickly. It’s almost as though David is saying “learn from my mistakes. When I kept my sin hidden, it took a toll on my health and well-being. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you simply turn to God. He is a rock of safety in the midst of a flood, and the waves of guilt don’t need to drag you down.”

Now, you might be listening and thinking “how can we turn to God for help before suffering comes if we don’t know it’s coming?” One way is to keep that regular, open communication with God, seeking his help and care in everything. But again, this section comes on the tails of the first. The suffering referred to here by the “flood” and “great waters” is suffering relating to our own sin. Suffering we have brought on ourselves by doing wrong, and not seeking God’s forgiveness. The reality is that God is ready to offer comfort when we call, and as with confession and contentment, often if we aren’t experiencing God’s comfort, it’s because we aren’t calling on him.

Giving another example from his own experience, David writes:

You are my hiding place; You keep me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance. 

Psalm 32:7 NASB

This is the God he knows. One who disciplines? Sure. But also one who protects, keeps him from trouble, delivers him. One commentator writes, “While previously David was hiding from God, here he is hiding in God.” (Ironside, 191). David, inspired by the Spirit to write these words, doesn’t want his readers to wait until the storms of life come to seek God’s deliverance.

It’s not about waiting to see if there will be consequences for our actions before we confess and seek out God’s help. We call upon God, keeping short account with him, because it’s the right thing to do. Because whether we are experiencing consequential suffering or not, unconfessed sin in our life affects our fellowship and relationship with God, and it can stand in the way of the comfort and contentment he has to offer.

When I was a kid (side note: I’m not sure how I landed on so many “Andrew was an idiot” illustrations…but you’re really getting a look behind the curtain today). When I was a kid, there was a period of time where my parents had a rule that I wasn’t allowed to borrow things from other kids, because once I had borrowed a toy from my neighbour and it mysteriously went missing. But this one time another kid at school had a toy I thought was really cool, and he said I could borrow it for the night to play with.

I got to play with it a bit on the bus ride home, but as we approached my home, I knew I had to keep it secret. I quickly hid it at the bottom of my backpack under some crumpled papers and walked inside. As soon as I had a moment, I snuck it from my backpack to my pocket, then rushed to my room and snuck it from my pocket to the bottom of my sock drawer. And then I spent the whole evening not playing with it, not enjoying it, and nervous that I was going to get busted.

So not only did I do something wrong, but by trying to keep it a secret, I brought fear and anxiety and anguish on myself, suffering in silence all night long (and then suffering loudly when my mom happened to do laundry that night and found the toy and I got totally busted).

God is not our enemy! Does he sometimes discipline us for our sin? Absolutely. Does he sometimes allow us to sit in our own fear and despair as we try desperately to keep our sin a secret? You bet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. He’s waiting to rescue us from the messes we make. To comfort when we call.


Now, I know I said we were going to be looking at three pairs of c’s: contentment when we confess, comfort when we call, and cheer when we comply. But before we can get to the final one, we have a brief little interlude in verse 8, which is like a bonus pair of c’s: character confirmation.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will advise you with My eye upon you.

Psalm 32:8 NASB

There’s some differing opinions on this verse, given that it’s tone shifts so significantly, but the most likely explanation is that this is David, still inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing from the perspective of God (in God’s voice) as a way of affirming everything he’s explained so far, and what will follow in the final section. That is to say, it’s all because of who God is that we have hope for contentment, comfort, and cheer.

Again, using three different synonyms here (instruct, teach, advise) to emphasize God’s loving care and correction. We aren’t left to our own: God wants to teach us! Instruct us! Advise us in all of this while watching us closely! And we could argue, that’s exactly what he was doing by inspiring David to write the words of this Psalm


The final section of verses shifts away from the sin we’ve already committed and onto avoiding those sins in the future. It’s a section about willful obedience, and the rewards that come along with it.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.

Psalm 32:9 NASB

In other words, “Don’t be stubborn. Don’t be like a mule that needs a bit in its mouth to direct its movement. Just do what you’re told. Don’t make God drag you over, come close to him of your own volition.” Be obedient willingly; not because you’re being forced or coerced, or because you’re afraid of the consequences. But because you know and trust the character of the God you serve.


The sorrows of the wicked are many,
But the one who trusts in the Lord, goodness will surround him.

Psalm 32:10 NASB

There is reward for trusting in God and being obedient to him. Some of it we may see in this life, and some of it we’ll see for sure in the next. And one such reward is shown in the final verse, where David shifts away from an example in his own personal life, to another more generic example that is available to anyone, and ought to be our response.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Psalm 32:11 NASB

One of the rewards for willingly obeying and trusting in God is joy! It’s cheer when we comply! And again, this section isn’t isolated from the other two. It’s because of what we’ve been reminded about God’s character—the way that he forgives and blesses, the way he rescues when we cry out to him, the way he teaches us with a watchful eye—that we can be filled with joy as we serve him. Remember, it’s willful obedience. Serving because we want to, not just because it’s expected or because others are watching. It’s obedience because God is watching, and joy in knowing that he’s pleased!

It’s the fact that we can still experience joy in giving to the church, even though it’s mostly digital and no one can see us drop the cheques into the offering plate anymore. It’s the joy I imagine has been experienced by those who came in and renovated and painted our nursery and classrooms during the pandemic, even though most people in the church might never know who did it. It’s the joy that can come from doing what is right, saying no to temptation, not because there’s fear of being caught, but because that’s what God wants us to do, and he’s watching.


As we move towards the ending of our time today, the application couldn’t be simpler: Confess, call, and comply, and experience contentment, comfort, and cheer! Practically speaking, I think these 3 pairs of c’s make an excellent addition to our daily quiet time with the Lord.

Confess: keep a short account with God. Don’t let your sin linger and pile up, but admit it to the one who knows about it anyways. And as you do so, experience the contentment, the blessing that comes with knowing your sins are forgiven, as we were reminded from that passage in 1 John earlier today.

Call: seek out God’s wisdom, his strength, his protection. When the storms of life come, particularly those of our own consequence, remember that he is the one our help comes from. Experience his comfort, the peace that surpasses all understanding that Paul writes about in Philippians.

Comply: ask for God’s strength to say no to temptation, to walk in willing obedience to all that he has commanded. And experience cheer as you rely on him to do just that. Be filled with the joy that comes with trusting in him.

We serve a loving and correcting God. One who forgives and rescues, but one who desires our hearts and our lives. Yet when we fail, as we all will time and time again, he responds with an amazing grace, demonstrated most fully in the giving of his Son, who died for those sins so that we can be forgiven.  

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Andrew is the Associate Pastor at Oakridge Bible Chapel. He grew up in a Christian home, and spent time serving in churches of varying sizes and denominations before landing at Oakridge with his wife in 2017. He likes to verbally process theological issues he finds challenging and is always ready to learn something new. He has a passion for teaching the Bible, and seeking to explain confusing passages in a clear way, preferably with a good illustration or two.

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