How to Deal with Sexual Failure

Dominick Baruffi

Dominick Baruffi

The year was 1984. Pastor John Piper had just returned home from a missions conference in Washington, D.C., and he had returned burdened. He had spent time listening to a missionary named George Verwer, who preached on the tragic number of young people who were leaving the missions field. Primarily, Verwer observed, these people were giving up their radical dream because of a gnawing sense of unworthiness: they had failed sexually. Their constant battle with sin was too great for them to continue down the radical path they had once set out on. Verwer preached passionately on this, and it stirred the heart of Piper. In response to his experience at the conference, Piper wrote a short essay for his church newsletter entitled, “Missions and Masturbation.” According to Piper, the following week was the closest he ever came to being fired from his post. You can probably understand why.

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“The great tragedy is not masturbation or fornication or pornography. The tragedy is that Satan uses guilt from these failures to strip you of every radical dream you ever had or might have. In their place, he gives you a happy, safe, secure, American life of superficial pleasures, until you die in your lakeside rocking chair.”

~John Piper

It is important before I write very much more, that I make mention of something I would much rather omit: that I am a sexual failure. This is not mere church speak; it is the bare truth of my existence. I have not honored God with my body; I am, as the hymn states, prone to wander, a deviant from the plans and institutes of God, sometimes on a daily basis. I have allowed lust to rule my heart instead of love for Christ and his people, and that battle continues even upon this writing. I say this in hopes of removing any misconceptions you may have of me, the writer, upon deciding to read a post as audaciously titled as this one. You will not find haughtiness or expertise here; I have none to offer. What you will find is more like a report sent from a soldier battling on the front lines of war. I have been to the battlegrounds more times than I care to admit, and I have learned that there are no shortcuts to victory. In the words of C.S. Lewis, the longest way round is the shortest way home.

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There is a tendency amongst people who have failed sexually to reinterpret their lives based on their sin. The egregious nature of our sin brings with it the almost crippling weight of guilt that, in many ways, serves us a great deal. Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body: without it, we wouldn’t know we were ill. But often, we interpret that guilt as a sign that God wants no part of us. How could he ever want me? 

What we forget in these moments is that which matters most: we forget the glorious Gospel of Jesus.

Christ has died,

Christ is risen,

Christ will come again.

The problem with making our sin greater than the glory of the Gospel is that it isn’t. Our sin has separated us from God, but Jesus Christ has defeated sin! When we allow the guilt to take us out of the game, we give power back to the enemy to tell us who we are. We exchange the truth about God for a lie that pushes us further and further away from the truth. We become like those young missionaries that George Verwer preached about, paying more attention to our sin and forgetting the message we preach. Because what would God want with a mess like me?

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If you are someone who has experienced sexual failure, hear this: Jesus is not surprised by your failures. He knew of them long before you did. This is not cause for despair, but celebration, for even while you were still in your sins, Christ died for you. You had no part in it; just Him, choosing to stay on that cross, taking your place among the damned. All that is required of you is that you choose to see yourself as He sees you: not as shamed, but as Son. Guilt is a good thing, but do not let the enemy use it against you. Now is the time for repentance. The Father is waiting for you to come to Him. 

Oh, the devil’s singing over me an age-old song

That I am cursed and gone astray

Singing the first verse so conveniently over me

He’s forgotten the refrain:

Jesus saves!

~Shane & Shane, “Embracing Accusation”