Man and wife praying together

Help! I've Truly Repented, But I Stumbled Again into Sin (Part 2)

True repentance is a gamechanger, and it sets a man on a path toward real freedom from sexual sin. But what should he do if he fails? And how should his wife respond to this? In Part 2 of a discussion with Steve & Kathy Gallagher, we show husbands and wives how to respond to failure in the right way so that they keep moving forward in their battle against sexual sin. (from Purity for Life Episode #511 - How to Handle Failure | Key Lessons on the Road to Freedom)

Nate: Now, Kathy, if a man who has repented of sexual sin is married, then likely he's married to a woman who has already been through a lot. This is not the first time she's had to face this, so if he happens to have another failure that can be really traumatic for her. All of the pain is freshly opened again. The wounds are open again. It brings back a lot of the memories that she hoped were completely behind her. Maybe she hasn't even really healed from a lot of these memories. What does she need to hear about these failures and how does she deal with them?

Kathy: If his repentance is genuine, a failure does not nullify that. It doesn't take you back to ground zero. I remember so well, the dichotomy of seeing Steve deeply repentant and then fall. It was very hard to understand because I knew what I had seen. I knew his repentance was real. I could not get away from the reality of what had happened to him spiritually. So, then I ask myself, “What is this failure then? What in the world are you doing here? You said a lot of things to me and you said a lot of things to the Lord. Things were changing, and now this.”

      All I want to say to women is that this is part of the process. I had to learn it. You have to learn it. It's not the end. It's not over. We're not going back to ground zero. Actually, the way I see it now, when Steve would fall into a form of sexual sin it was the lingering remnants of his old life still being purged from him. It wasn't truly failure, but it was like a finality to the whole awful thing. He had a few failures with pornography after he had his biggest moment of repentance, and it was pretty devastating because as a wife I went right back to square one in my mind.

    But what was happening in between the falls was that he was changing and I could see the change was real. And so, we’d go along for a few months and then boom, he would fall again. And in the female mind, we're back to ground zero. We have to start all over again. But he was still changing and the failures became less and less. There was more period of time in between each of those failures. So, he was changing and he was repenting. He was just having to battle his way out of things.

     In my mind, I was thinking he just wants his sin and that's why he keeps going back to it. That's what was in my heart sometimes, because that fear just takes over inside and you think that your husband is just messing with your head. But that's not what was happening and that's not what's happening in your situation most likely. Your husband is moving forward. It may not feel like he is to you, but he is. The thing that every woman should be looking for isn't necessarily the sin but the fruit of repentance. And for Steve, there was more fruit of repentance in the daily life than there was sinful behavior.

     What is happening in your husband spiritually? What does his life with God look like? That's the thing I have such a hard time trying to get through to women, because we take so personal what our husbands have done to us. We are always looking at how his sin is affecting us. And I don't mean to make it sound like that’s a horrible thing. It's just the reality of what we as wives are bent toward. But what you should be seeing is what is going on in his life with God, because that's the most important thing. Not the marriage.

      I hate to say it. I know that ruffles feathers, but the most important thing is his walk with God. If that is growing, your marriage will end up where it's supposed to end up. But if all he is focused on is you and your feelings then he is not going to grow spiritually. The thing that kept me hanging on with Steve was the repentance in him and the life that was developing in him spiritually. I saw something even in the midst of failures. I saw reality and I wasn't going to let go of that.

Nate: And that reality doesn't mean an absolutely transformed life overnight.

Kathy: No, it took years. And to be honest with you, walking through Steve issues with sexual sin in a certain way was the easy part. Yeah, he would have his lapses of sexual sin after he came into a life of victory, but there were deeply rooted attitudes and ways of thinking in Steve that God needed to deal with. And once the sexual sin got dealt with, I thought, “Oh, boy, a new husband, won't this be fun!” But then I was like, “Who is this guy?” The sexual sin was gone, but there was an angry, grumpy, disgruntled, complaining husband still there.

     Those were the things that the Lord was working out of him. So, I hate to say it, but women generally have a very fairy tale mentality about marriage. We think of it as if it is supposed to be utopia on earth and that is just not what it is. It’s two sinners coming together under the banner of Jehovah and allowing him to work into both of us His compassion and His mercy. His patience and His long suffering. All that He is we are supposed to be becoming. Not a happily married couple necessarily. That's not really the goal as I see it.

Nate: That's a lot to chew on. I'm glad you say that stuff and not me. One thing I have seen with quote unquote sexual addiction specialists is this idea that the failure should be thoroughly analyzed. Like, “Where was I?  What did I feel? What were my triggers?” And I think the idea is that if I can understand all the dynamics, then I can protect myself from those circumstances in the future and that will keep me from “relapsing”. Is there any value in this approach where you analyze the failure, or is that a lost cause?

Steve: Well, I can tell you this. I sure I am grateful I have the Lord and I am not dependent on my ability to analyze myself. I suppose there may be a little bit of value to doing that, but comparatively to putting your energy, time and effort into developing a life with God, it is a night and day difference. It's like three cents worth of help versus a million dollars worth of help.

     We are talking about the power of Almighty God working on your behalf inside of, transforming your life, changing your circumstances and carrying you through life. Compare that to analyzing yourself. Are you kidding me? But that's the difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom that comes from God and from a life in God. All I can say is this is not a mental battle. This is a spiritual battle and it's not won through knowledge of ourselves. It's won through connection to God and it's that connection to God that gives us the victory.

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Kathy: This whole idea of analyzing self to me is just an extension of what people have already been doing, because sin is like a thesis on self. So, why do you need to look at yourself more?

Steve: All it will do is a get a person more wrapped up in themselves.

Kathy: Yes. It is totally taking you away from where you should be putting your head and your heart toward, which is the Lord. What Steve just said is absolutely true. Put your energy, put your effort and put your mind in the Word of God and spending time with Jesus, because that is where true change comes from. Not by looking at yourself. We already know we're a mess. We need help and it's not going to come from our self-estimation. Self-examination is such a worldly wisdom approach to me and it grieves me.

Steve: And now you know why there's no hope in this world, because the world has nothing to offer.

Nate: Yea. Well, one of the struggles that I had with this whole interview was that we're talking about in some ways the good that can come out of failure. And it's a touchy subject because you don't want to give people a sense that every single time I fall good is going to come out of it. That can really let people off the hook from reality, because sin has destructive consequences every single time. So, I know Pastor Steve, in your book at the At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry, when you talked about this you were very clear that this should never be an excuse to give into any kind of sin. Although, you did touch on the good that can come out of it. So, can you identify for us some of the specific kinds of good that can come out of a failure.

Steve: Ok. Well, first of all, let's set the proper stage here. We're talking about a man who is walking in victory but then has a failure. So, he's been mostly walking in victory over sexual sin for a matter of months or something like that. We're not talking about a guy who's still in the throes of sin. So, for a guy who things are going pretty well for and he has a failure, is there a silver lining to this cloud? Yes, I would say that there certainly could be the. The potential is certainly there. It'd be better not to fall into sin, because there are consequences. But it's not all black and it's not all negative.

     For instance, it's a humbling experience. There is an element of the man’s pride that's still there, especially when he starts doing well for a time. He may start feeling pretty self-confident and self-reliant, and sometimes we need to be taken down a peg or two. So, a failure can be a positive in that sense. Another thing is that it creates and deepens the hatred for sin, because there are consequences. And you get sick and tired of paying the price for that little bit of fun. So that reality goes deeper in you, which is a good thing also. Which that's the sort of thing that really can keep you from sin later when a temptation comes along.

     You start remembering, “Yeah, I know it could be really fantastic for a few minutes, but I remember the aftermath and it’s not worth it.” That kind of a thought can come to you. And the other thing we need to keep in mind is God's approach to our dilemma is holistic. He's not interested in just cleaning up this one little sin. We would be happy if that's all He would do. So much so that a man may have thoughts like, “Just leave me alone Lord. Let me live my worldly carnal selfish life. Just take this one sin out of my life because it's bothering me and it's making my wife really mad, so take it.” And praise God that He doesn't think like us.

  He's thinking about a complete change of character and a movement of our entire being headed towards Him and His Christ likeness. And that encompasses all the different elements of our nature. So, it's not just a matter of sexual sin. He's wanting change everywhere and in everything about us. So, we would be happy maybe to keep things as they are life other than this one sin that is ruining our lives, but God wants to move us into a life of true victory.

Nate: Yeah. And Kathy, for the wife, what good can come to her from her husband's failures?

Kathy: I have a short list. The first thing I would say is dependence on the Lord because we can very easily go through life without depending on Him when life is going well. So, I see the trials that have come through my husbands’ failures as a blessing, because they have caused me to really cry out to the Lord and put all my faith and hope in Him. I needed to be humbled greatly. When you're the wife and the “victim”, you can really get yourself in a mental quagmire and a spiritual quagmire of trouble from thinking that you're a victim and losing sight of the sovereignty of God. I have had to go through this struggle a million times in my life. Where I ask myself, “Where is God in all of this?” And the truth is that He is in every part of it.

      That's my answer to that question every time now after 43 years of marriage and looking back, He used it powerfully in my life. I needed to be humbled greatly even at the ripe age of 21 when all this hell broke loose on my life. But it also helped me to see the real battle that my husband was in. And it helped me to see how the Lord uses our struggles and sins to deal with us, to purge us and to conform us. My sight was raised up from not just my life in this world but to the bigger picture of what God is doing. It's so much more than what we can see. We're just so earthbound and it's natural to be that way, but the Lord is wanting to lift our vision to something more than just life on this earth.

    For decades we have been going through dealing with our own issues, but also dealing with so many other people. I have to ask myself, what is God doing with all of that? What is the point of all of that? That's kind of what we've been saying in different ways through this whole interview. We are being conformed to the image of Christ. We are not just putting off the old man, we are putting on Christ. That's the point. So, to lose our lives in this world and repent and turn away from our sin means that we're turning to Him and that we are taking on Christ likeness. And that to me is worth all the battle and all the struggle.

    Jesus is the prize. He is the goal. That is the end of the line right there. So, all the other stuff that confuses and muddles up the purpose for the struggle, I'm done with all that. I want Jesus and I don't care what it cost me. And that is where I have ended up after 43 years of marriage and seeing a lot of people go through struggles. But I understand God is still in everything. As painful as it is, He's there for us in every trial. You just have to apprehend Him and set Him as your course and as your prize in life.

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