When my husband Steve came to the Lord in 1982, I naturally assumed that his sexual escapades were over and done with. But like many newborn believers, his zeal for the Lord was no match for the lustful desires still stirring deep within him. Three weeks after his conversion, he fell back into sin. For a long period afterwards, He had spurts of victory followed by relapses into pornography and illicit sex. I was devastated, and I couldn’t imagine much good ever coming out of his failures.
At times I questioned his sincerity. “How can he say that he loves God and loves me and still return to his sin?” I asked myself. I was very idealistic about spiritual matters. To me it was simple: you repent, you turn away from sin, and then you get on with life. The inconsistency in his walk with the Lord led me to think that Steve didn’t mean business.
Eventually, I realized that he was in the fight of his life and hadn’t become addicted overnight. Sex was his biggest idol even before he got saved. For years his mind was a fantasy warehouse where he stored volumes of pornographic images. He had had countless sexual encounters before and after we got married.
My husband’s experience helped me to see that in order to break free from sexual addiction, a man can’t simply flip a switch that completely shuts down his sex drive. It is unrealistic—and unwise—for any wife to think that one experience of brokenness at an altar will be the last of her husband’s struggles. In our society today, complete immunity against sexual temptation is virtually impossible. Nevertheless, a wife whose husband truly desires victory, but occasionally stumbles, should remain hopeful. God is at work in his heart.
Breaking free from habitual sin is almost always a process, and failures often serve as springboards to real freedom. Very few sex addicts are zapped. Therefore, setbacks are to be expected—despite any resolve to find freedom. Each of us was born with a natural propensity to sin. Only after a person gets sick and tired of wallowing in the pigpen and reaping the consequences, will he begin to hate his sin.
A godly wife must find a balance between patiently bearing her struggling husband while refusing to tolerate insincerity and unfaithfulness. Often it can be difficult to discern when someone is having a temporary setback as opposed to someone who is not serious about quitting.
A man who really wants to break free must show some willingness to change and make the necessary steps that will lead to long-term freedom. Although I was devastated by Steve’s repeated failures, I never lost hope because it was obvious he was desperate to find God. Because of the depth of his sin, our marriage would have quickly fizzled out had he not permitted the Lord to deal with him. Many times his sin brought me almost to a breaking point, but God was faithful to give me the grace to endure. If your husband is battling habitual sexual sin, I encourage you to focus your attention on three things:
1. Focus On An Awesome God
Don’t stare at the overwhelming mountain of your husband’s sin, look to God who moves mountains. It is imperative that you spend quality time with the Lord everyday to maintain this kind of faith. If you don’t do this, your hope won’t be based upon the reality of what the Lord can do but upon how well your husband is doing. This is an easy set up for much heartache and grief. Your hopes of him ever changing will be dashed often.
2. Focus On Your Husband’s Efforts
If your husband has demonstrated a desire to change, believe the best. Perhaps you have tried to do this in the past and have been disappointed when he failed. It is very likely that this kind of disappointment comes whenever you zero in on his failures instead of examining the overall pattern of his life. If you seek the Lord for yourself, you are less likely to brood over his past sins and will look for the good in your husband. However, if you don’t press into God, his failures will distort your view of him.
3. Focus On The Length Of Your Days
Try your best to see the big picture. You and your husband are on a long journey, and hopefully by God’s grace his addiction will only be a small part of it. If you were to draw a ten-inch line on a piece of paper, representing the rest of your lives, this period will appear very small. If you then draw that line with respect to eternity, this season of your life will barely be distinguishable—it will appear as a tiny dot!
You must have the proper perspective; otherwise your husband’s failures will paralyze you emotionally and spiritually. As a child of God, you cannot allow his setbacks to cripple you. To avoid going off into despair when your husband fails, focus on the One who is Sovereign over all things, on your husband’s efforts to change, and on the big picture. Then before long your faith will once again soar like an eagle!
Kathy Gallagher is the Co-Founder and Senior Administrator of Pure Life Ministries. She has been ministering to Christian women for over 20 years and has a deep desire to see them living a fulfilled life in Christ.
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