The Right Way to Handle Failure
Counselor Jeremiah Eakin helps people seeking freedom from sexual sin know what to expect and how to respond when it comes to their failures.
There's nothing as discouraging as failure when you're trying to change. But should people trying to break habits of sexual sin expect to fail?
Yes! You know, when it comes to spiritual things, people throw out their common sense about how things work in real life. If you're going to ride a bike, if you expect to get on it perfectly the first time; it's just not going to happen. You're not going to ride the bike perfectly. And some people don't want to try because they don't want to fail. But you've got to get back up. You've got to persist.
In the fight against sexual sin, what's the difference between just losing a single battle and being completely defeated?
I used to be in this mindset. I was thinking I was failing, when in reality I was in defeat. And that is so common for men and women who struggle with sexual sin. They have convinced themselves—deluded themselves—into thinking that they're failing, when in reality they're just in a cycle of constant defeat. Take the issue of masturbation. I was giving over to masturbation on a regular basis, but when I shared it, I was always saying, "I'm struggling; I'm struggling." No, if you're giving into masturbation, you're lifting up the white flag and you're surrendering to the enemy and you're being overrun. If you're viewing pornography regularly, if you're in an illicit relationship, you're not struggling; you are defeated. You need serious help.
Here's someone in failure: I've got a guy I'm counseling who's pressing into the Lord daily but seeing that he's an absolute mess. He feels worse now; he's wondering if he's saved at this point, because he's seeing all the rubble and all the sin in his life. I'm going to encourage that brother. I'm going to say, "God is moving in your life. That's the Holy Spirit showing you who you are. Don't give up. Keep going. God is building character inside of you, but he takes us through trials." And so that brother is someone who's experiencing failure, whereas the other person is someone who's just defeated.
Can you share a situation where you experienced failure in the area of sexual sin and how you responded to that experience?
Yeah, I can remember a situation where I was doing well spiritually and I kind of took my foot off the pedal. I had some vacation time I just wanted to watch movies and relax. And the Lord was clearly saying, "If you're going to watch some movies, you need to spend more time with Me." And I said I would, but I didn't. I just gave over to my flesh. And then, I got very sick with the flu, and then the lust hit me. And I was spiritually unarmed. I really gave over to some sin. I had been walking in victory, and it was devastating to me. I remember that I got up early and found a place where I cried out to the Lord for a time. I knew I had to call my spiritual authority, and I'll never forget that all he said was, "Well, you've got to get up and keep going." I saw I had some leaks in my life. I wasn't spending quality time with the Lord in the morning. I recommitted myself to the Lord. It was a hard two weeks after that, but within two weeks, I was further ahead spiritually than I was before I fell. So the Lord really taught me a lesson and really helped me get back on my feet through that failure.
What are some of the possible lessons that a person should be open to learning if they're dealing with a failure during their pursuit of freedom from sexual sin?
One misconception people have—at least, this is how I was—is that I always approached the Bible saying, "I want to be like these almost-perfect people." The Bible isn't full of perfect people; it's full of people who God showed mercy to. The Bible is a story about God's mercy to fallen people. Go through it. David experienced tremendous failure. I'm not touting the failure, but it's there. Abraham lied about his wife three times. Samson got hung up on a girl and just kept missing it. But Samson is in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11. David is a man after God's own heart. Abraham is the father of the faith. We will fail, but God's mercy will overcome.
And I'm not giving people license or anything like that; you have to deal with your failures, and each one of those men paid a great price for their failures. Samson got his eyes gored out; the kingdom was taken away from David for a season; Abraham had to go through Ishmael leaving the house. So there's consequences for our failures, but it's God's mercy.
And one thing we learn from our failures is this: when I try to battle in my own strength, I will always fail. Psalm 20:7-9 says, "Some boast in chariots, some in horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright. Save, O Lord! May the king answer us in the day we call." When we trust in the Lord, we will be victorious. When we trust in ourselves, we will fall. That's throughout Scripture. And the Bible is full of imperfect people who turn to the Lord in their failures. That's the key: turn to the Lord; don't turn to yourself! Turn to the Lord in your failure! Call out to the Lord! That's the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Who was justified? The man who cried out to the Lord in His failure—the tax collector. Not the religious guy...the tax collector. God will hear our cry when we call out to Him in our failure. But we have to call out to the Lord.
What advice would you give to someone who's just experienced a failure in their life? What steps should they take?
First, repent to the Lord. Turn from your sin. And you turn from your sin by cutting off any of the entrances through which sin is coming into your life. If it's the internet, you might need to get rid of the internet. I know that's like impossible for some people...but yeah, you need to cut off your sin.
Also, you've got to ask for help. You can't do this by yourself. If you're a soldier fighting by yourself, you're going to lose. You need the body of Christ. You need spiritual authorities. And you need to learn how to fight. That's why our programs are great, but also, there's your local church. You've got to get help if you see you're in defeat.
And then, do something! Be like Jesus; get involved in the needs of others. Go to a soup kitchen. Those are just three simple steps that you can do on the heels of a failure to get back on track.
This is how I'd sum it up: James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." Your faith is being tested. That's what we need to understand. And it "produces endurance." There's something being produced in us when we face trials. It's producing endurance. And the verse continues: "Let endurance have its perfect work." Why? "So that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." The Lord is doing something in your life. Yes, it's hard; it's difficult, and there's failures. But get back up. Keep getting back up, and keep your eyes on the Lord. And walk with your fellow brothers and sisters.
This excerpt is from our podcast episode, “Common Roadblocks to Victory Over Sexual Sin“ Episode, #339
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