When Guilt Won’t Go Away
 
Dealing with the aftermath of sexual sin.

Sherry hadn't thought of her high school sexual activity in years. She and Clay had quit after that "I'm late" scare. They finally broke up altogether, went away to different colleges, married other people, and lived happily ever after. Until now. Now Sherry has just miscarried her first child, and her mind is filled with images of the past, a resurgence of guilt, and questions about whether God is finally punishing her for her long-forgotten sin.

Todd just found out about his wife's affair. Bridget is repentant and wants to go to counseling together. Todd loves her, but he's afraid of what counseling might lead to, what it might cost him. Could he ever confess to Bridget and to his pastor the truth of his own short-lived affair?

And then there are George, Anna, Brent, Lois, Tyron, Chris, Lou, Sandy, and Claire—all Christians and all caught up in sexual fantasy and habitual masturbation fueled by internet pornography and magazines. They all promise the Lord "never again" every time they give in to temptation.

Whether sexual sin occurs before conversion to Christ or well after spiritual rebirth, the guilt and memories are not easily erased from our minds. We can be confident that Christ forgave all our sin on the cross but still struggle with feelings of shame and guilt.

The Truth about Forgiveness

In dealing with past sexual sin, we must remember certain truths.
  • Jesus loved and forgave sexual sinners (Luke 7, John 4 and 8).
  • Jesus understands sexual temptation (Heb. 4:14-16).
  • God's grace is greater than our worst sin (Ps. 103:8-14, Jer. 31:34, Ro. 8:31-39).
  • Our past sin is washed away, even our sexual sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  • Sin still has its consequences (Gen. 3:14-19, 2 Sam. 12:10-11). One reason many people have a hard time "feeling forgiven" for sexual sin is that there are often such tangible consequences: an unwanted pregnancy, a broken marriage, venereal disease, a lost reputation, etc. The consequences, however, do not make us any less forgiven.

The Role of Confession

God knows all of our sin; He is not surprised by it nor does He turn away. Neither does He tolerate it. God has a will and a plan for us to deal honestly and radically with the sinful activity that infests our lives. Part of God's plan for sin is that we confess it and repent.

If there is unconfessed sexual sin in your past, the following steps may be helpful.
  • Confess your activity as sin to God, making no excuses, offering no rationalization for your behavior. Ask the Lord for a radical edge to your repentance and the spiritual strength and physical discipline to obey His will.
  • Confess your sin to others if they have been or continue to be hurt by it. Ask a pastor or counselor to guide you in this decision. Pray for discernment to do what is right, not just for yourself, but for the others involved.
  • Confide in a mature, trustworthy person who will listen to you, pray with you, and help you follow through on a recommitment to control sexual desires within the boundaries of holiness.
God's heart breaks over sexual sin and its results, whether it be addiction to pornography, the loneliness that deepens from self-gratification, or the marriage broken by an affair. He longs to draw us out of sin to a place of blessing and holiness. We need not try to hide our sin from God—as if we could! Turning to Him in honest confession is the smartest thing we can do when sin holds us in its grip.

Forgetting What Is Behind

The Apostle Paul understood what it meant to be honest about his sin. Paul remembered his sin—which included a murderous rampage against the church—but he functioned out of his sense of "forgetting" (Phil. 3:8-14). Paul had regrets, but he was confident in his Redeemer. He focused on his Savior, not on his sin.

Paul recognized that there are no "do-overs" in real life; there are no outtakes that don't show up in the final product. Like Paul, none of us is "worthy"; we all have sin we can't undo, can't forget, can't pretend didn't happen. But, like Paul, we also have a Savior, one who forgives and gives us the courage to press on.

Regretful memories must not be the defining influence in our lives. Whatever our past, we can respond obediently to God's greater claim on our lives—to be active participants in His kingdom, a kingdom peopled by redeemed sinners loved by God.




— Discipleship Journal
 


We Believe in the Power of Prayer

In Matt. 18:19, Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” 

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