Hope in Failure

Hope in FailureSometimes the prospect of long-term victory over besetting sin seems impossible. The ruts of long-standing habits are furrowed deep. They are easily settled into and difficult to steer out of. Personal commitment to purity may be sincere and earnest, but a track record of repeated failure punches holes in one’s conviction, draining hope out, drip by drip. It can seem inevitable that, in a moment of weakness or a season of gradual drifting, relapse will occur. On the far side of failure, discouragement hangs heavy. In moments like these, a perspective that offers some hope is needed. Here are five things to remember:

1. Forgiveness is available
The power of the gospel is in the assurance that the atoning sacrifice of Christ always reaches further than the extent of your rebellion. After writing a conflicted reflection on his own struggle with sin, Paul settles on the promise that, “…there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). In Christ, there is no such thing as “too far gone.” The hapless and hopeless find an ever-fresh start in the gospel. No matter how often you have repeated a cycle of sin in your life, it is never too late for healing. God will wipe away the stain of sin in a moment and help to rebuild what has been damaged or destroyed in your life.

2. Failure is not absolute
Each attempt at purity presents opportunities for growth. Lessons are learned along the way. Failure is an occasion to explore the triggers that led you to relapse. Points of vulnerability are exposed. Patterns are clarified. A deeper understanding of why and how you got off course can be used to prepare for future success. Safety steps can be implemented to guard against repeating the pattern. A shorter cycle or a deeper self-awareness is movement in the right direction. New safeguards in response to failure may be instrumental in future success. Ironically, it is possible that in setback, progress can be made.

3. Purity begins with a day
For someone stuck in the grip of habitual sin, the thought of sustained purity over large blocks of time is daunting. Daily faithfulness is a step on the journey toward long-term victory. It begins with a day (or even a moment) rather than a week, a month or a year. A year of purity seems impossible, but one day feels manageable. Each day can begin with a prayer for strength to persevere through that day. String enough days together and the hope of longevity begins to feel possible. Just as each day of surrender increases the likelihood of surrender tomorrow, so with each day of purity the potential for long term success increases slightly. New habits are formed and each day increases the incentive to keep the streak alive.

4. There is always a way out
The promise of I Corinthians 10:13 stands, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” In his book Winning the War Within, Charles Stanley says, “We are in the process of developing character, but where we are in the process has no bearing on our potential to overcome temptation. It may affect our desire to overcome temptation, but not our ability.” When sin feels inevitable, it is because the decision to surrender has already been made, even if your actions are still catching up with your heart.

It is helpful to develop that habit of searching for that way of escape early. It is easiest to bail out on a sinful cycle in the initial stages of temptation, before momentum grows, but escape is possible at every stage of temptation. Sin is never inevitable.

5. Long term purity is possible
Sinful habits are not indestructible. Freedom is possible. No matter what the struggle, there are men and women who have faced similar issues and found victory. Finding these mentors who are further along in their recovery can encourage you and give you a model to emulate. Support groups that focus on common habitual sins may provide a context for meeting these people. They provide hope that your current bondage can be broken.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” (2 Corinthians 3:17). The keys to unlock the shackles of your bondage are available. In the midst of failure, don’t loose hope. Victory over sinful habits will not come easily, but it is certainly possible.

Phil Huber is a freelance writer. He blogs regularly at aploddingpilgrimage.blogspot.com.

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