Last year I went through some trials and became discouraged. I had a led a fairly solid Christian life until I turned away from Christ and the Jesus I knew for a period of time. There were serious illnesses and disorders in my family and knew three young people who died recently, one by suicide. Historically, I would put all the pain in my life where it goes at the foot of the cross, but, my wife and I began fighting about how best to deal with our family problems. I got caught up in fantasizing about seeking a relationship with another woman, but, who, how, why?
I began reading about mid-life crisis. It seemed I was having mine. I prayed to God, "I know You are there, but why aren't You listening as I watched my baby to whom I had been so close try to slowly kill herself?" So, there I was ripe for Satan to test.
I bought something on Craig's List and saw a section called Casual Encounters. Intially, I resisted thinking this is sick. But, curiosity got the best of me. In my head I knew nothing good could come of going in this direction. How could I risk causing more pain to the family? I fought this off in an approach avoidance fashion for about five months. Then I began a dialogue with a woman. I debated the foolishness and sinfulness of pursuing anything beyond emails with her, but in the end she wanted to meet me. I went on a date with her. We did not complete the sex act, but I thought about it, so in my heart I had committed adultery. Decades of marriage and being a solid Dad and guy tainted at my own hand. I got away with it, but I had lived my life as an open book. I could not have things under the cover of darkness. I told my wife about it, tried to explain how confused I had become to my kids. I have gone to confession and intensified my attendence to spiritual matters.
My wife has forgiven me, albeit, I know she is still hurt and angry. Some of my children have forgiven me and some are coming around. The family problems are being solved. We are all doing better. I know God has forgiven me, but how do I stop beating myself up? I know I need to go forward being faithful to the Gospel, yet I am having a great deal of difficulty letting go of my sin.
Please offer any suggestions and pray for me.
"Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).
Just last Sunday I gave a lesson about the damage sin causes to a soul -- damage beyond the immediate consequences of the sin. See "A Thief Named Sin," or if you prefer to listen: "A Thief Named Sin." Your sin robbed you of how you see yourself and you are trying to take back what has been stolen from you.
What you did was wrong. I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know. What you need is to reach a point of accepting the fact that you aren't as resistant to sin as you thought you were. It is an extremely hard lesson to swallow. In the long run, it will do you good. "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3). Your pride got wounded, and is that such a bad thing?
When we forget that sin can strike us at any time, we become careless. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12). The knowledge of what you could have lost will, if you let it, serve as a barrier to any repeat.
And now when you come before God, you have both humility because you know what you are capable of and thankfulness because you know what God has released you from. "But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:6-10).
Paul understood this in his own life. "For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:9-10). Paul didn't wallow in self-pity. Instead, he turned it into personal motivation to work all the more harder for the God who forgave him of such sins. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life" (I Timothy 1:15-16).
Take time today and the rest of your life to thank God for the life you've been given and the mercy shown in rescuing you from your own foolishness. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
And spend time learning God's teachings. "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" (Psalms 119:11). Your best defense is a good offense.
It isn't the past the matters, it is the future. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). It doesn't mean that your past won't haunt you in memories, but you don't let the past paralyze you. Keep moving forward.
Thank you for your sincere reply. I listen to Family Life network on the radio throughout my work day. I pray often and attend Mass regularly. You confimed what I had suspected of myself. I told my wife, I had become spiritually arrogant. It's not as if I went around boasting of anything, but I felt I was way ahead in the race. Throughout my career I have seen firsthand the ill effects of sinful choices and the trapping of sin. I felt I would never fall. Indeed, how foolish to tempt God. Going forward, I will let that grave sin resonate only as a reminder of the need to have a good offense as you suggest.
I know God has a plan for me. For now I think it is to remain in my current position. God has helped me in moments of discouragement by bring some folks around who have told me, I helped them. My reply is often, thank you, but I don't know what I did. I know it is only through God's grace that anything positive comes of anything.
I have been spending more time in Scripture and the scriptures you were able to reference were so helpful. I will pray for your ministry. You are obviously doing great things for the Lord. Please continue to pray for me and my family. I know the Holy Spirit is at work.