I am a 20-year-old woman, dating a 27-year-old man. He is not a Christian, and we both have so many plans for the next six years at least that we know this relationship cannot really go anywhere. We have been doing a lot of things sexually. We haven’t actually had intercourse, and we don’t plan to, but we’ve done everything else.
I know all this is very, very wrong and that I am living sinfully. I know I should not even be dating a non-Christian man, much less one I have no future with and who tempts me to do things I never planned to do until I was married. I know I need to break it off with him.
But I can’t. I’ve tried to break up with him twice, but both times I couldn’t go through with it.
My whole life as a “Christian” (I don’t even know if I can call myself one), I have been unable to resist sin and temptation. Every time I am tempted it seems that I cannot do the right thing, and I fall. This has been a vicious cycle.
Now I am at the point where I’ve committed what I consider to be the most serious sin of my life, but I don’t even feel guilty. I want to feel awful and repent and be a good Christian, but I feel nothing. All I feel is that I want to keep being with this man and continue to do the things we’ve been doing. In fact, any sin I commit, I no longer feel guilty about. I just feel nothing, emotionless.
I keep saying that I will recommit as a Christian and live my life right, but every time I make that decision, I fail fantastically. Like yesterday, I tried to break up with this man; I told him I’d recommitted and that we should just be friends. In addition, I gave him his first Bible. Not one hour later, we were doing things reserved for marriage, going farther than we’d ever gone before.
I’m sick of all this. I’m sick of trying to live up to God’s impossible standards and failing over and over again. It seems that I am not cut out to be a Christian.
So what should I do? How do I genuinely summon up the desire or whatever it takes to make myself a real, honest-to-goodness Christian that actually acts like one? Is there any hope for me at all? I want to be saved, but I’ve been saying I’m a Christian for so long and failing miserably for so long. I’m the biggest sinner I know. I’m starting to think that maybe I’m just insignificant to God or that He doesn’t want me to be saved. How else could I fail so much?
I’ve often said that I wish I could do the right thing just once in my life. It seems I can’t.
I’m so glad you wrote and pray that what you read here will be a turning point in your life.
You asked in the title of your e-mail, “Is there any hope for me?” The resounding answer is Yes! Christ came to die for sinners. Sinners like you and me. Sinners like all the readers of this column. Though we may not be in a situation that feels as hopeless as yours does, it’s just a matter of degrees, not kind. Jesus said He came to heal the sick. They’re the ones who need a doctor.
The good news is that no one is beyond salvation. Romans 1:16 says the Gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (emphasis added).
Christ’s gift of salvation is good news. But it’s only good news if the person hearing it recognizes that they need it. Jesus came to forgive sinners, but He called them out of their sin. You don’t get a pass because you face such seemingly hard, seemingly unique temptations.
First Corinthians 10:13 says, “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.”
Stop thinking it’s all up to you. You can’t do this alone. Thankfully, you don’t have to. Jesus is the ultimate intercessor precisely because He came in the flesh and knows what’s it like to be tempted — and to successfully resist that temptation. He even told us what to do: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Instead of agonizing over how much you’ve failed and misrepresented Christ to this man, repent. Take the focus off you and put it on Christ. Seek His forgiveness as well as a community of Bible believers who will walk alongside you and help you mature in your faith. And stop doing the things that set you up for failure.
I’m not surprised by your admission that you “can’t” break up with this guy or that you enjoy being sexual with him or that you don’t feel guilty. Sex is like super glue. God designed it to hold a husband and wife together as long as they live. Just because you’re having it outside of marriage doesn’t make it any less sticky. Nor does the fact that you’re stopping short of intercourse. Anything you do that leads to orgasm together creates the glue effect. That’s why it feels impossible to break up with him.
But you must. There’s nothing good that can come of this relationship as long as you’re romantically involved. Even if you were to stop all sexual activity cold turkey, it’s too late. Breaking up and ending all contact with him is the only hope you have of salvaging not only your own soul, but also your representation of Christ to him. Up till now, you’ve been lying. Lying to him about who God is and what He requires. Lying about sin and consequences and righteousness.
It’s not helpful to camp out on the idea that you’re the worst of sinners. While it is essential to acknowledge your sin, it’s also important to realize you’re not alone. Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The danger of convincing yourself that you’ve blown it more than any other is that you’ll start thinking you should get a pass because you’re in a category by yourself. That you’re somehow “the exception.” You’re not. Paul wrote,
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17)
John MacArthur’s commentary on this passage says, “Paul was living proof that God could save any sinner, no matter how great a one he might be.”
When you’re tempted to stop fighting sin, remember it’s not just you you’re at war with. Peter wrote, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The battle raging in and around you isn’t just physical. It’s spiritual. And to fight it, you need both physical boundaries and spiritual protection (Ephesians 6:10-12).
I’m concerned that you no longer feel guilty for your ongoing sin. Just because you don’t feel bad about it doesn’t mean you won’t suffer for it. David wrote, “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you” (Psalm 69:5). God is all-seeing. He knows what you’re doing. And the consequences are terrifying:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done…. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (You can read the whole passage in the first chapter of Romans)
Believing in Jesus Christ as the risen Savior and Lord and accepting His gift of salvation is the starting point. What follows is the lifelong work of letting Him transform your life. And it requires you to strive for holiness. Peter wrote, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:15-17).
You can’t continue living this way without suffering the effects of your sin. I suspect you realize that, and that’s why you wrote. In fact, your email is evidence that your conscience is still working, trying to move to back toward right living. It’s not too late to change, not too late to act on what guilt remains. I’m really glad you wrote. I think it’s a sign of God’s mercy, evidence that He does love you and wants you to get right with Him. It’s not too late to repent; truly repent, as evidenced by sorrow for your rebellion against God and His ways and His laws. Just because you don’t feel like repenting doesn’t mean you can’t confess even that to Him in prayer.
But don’t stop there. You can do a lot to make it less likely that you’ll fall again. You determine the success of your plan to stop seeing this man and to stop having sex with him by what you do. For starters, stop setting yourself up for failure. You know what happens when you’re alone with this guy — you stumble and fall sexually. So stop being alone with him. Stop calling him. Stop dating him. Stop acting like you’re married. It really is best if you break off all contact.
To do that, you’re going to need the support of a community of believers. Do you have a church home? You really need one. And not just a place where you slip in late on Sunday and leave early without talking to anyone. You need to meet with the pastor or counseling staff and ask for help. It won’t be easy, but the benefit of being supported by other redeemed sinners is essential. And it’s such a rich part of being a Christian, you’ll wonder how you made it without them.
Another essential is to be praying and reading the Bible every day.
If you don’t do these things, I fear for where all this will lead. You already risk searing your conscience. But that’s not all. Consider what Proverbs has to say about folly:
The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
If you are truly a follower of Christ, you have access to the power that brought Him back to life. But it’s up to you. You have a choice to make.
I pray you’ll make the right one.
Copyright 2008 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.