Lessons From Relapse

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Preaching the gospel to yourself?” Preaching the gospel to yourself is reminding yourself of the truth in the midst of your sin and brokenness. It means actively choosing to trust in the hope and freedom that you have in Jesus. As I am typing these words I am preaching the gospel to myself…I’m not really sure what else to do. I was tempted to fall back into some ED habits today and it scared me…big time.

My biggest fear in recovery is relapse. I have experienced so much healing this summer that I never want to go back to the dark place I was in. It’s hard because recovery isn’t a linear line straight to the finish line. It is up-and-down the entire process, up until you are fully recovered. Full recovery can’t even be defined from a clinical stand point so its easy for me to feel hopeless and want to just be done with the process. I am doing well in recovery…but some days I am barely doing well in recovery. It’s a constant battle. Today I was flirting with the line of some behaviors that weren’t helping my recovery…only hurting it. Even the temptation to relapse makes me have a lot of anxiety. I desperately don’t want to relapse…but I am not perfect. Throughout my journey I have had several mini-relapses/lapses. By the grace of God I haven’t had any moments where I have completely given up and gone back to the lowest point of my recovery, but the moments where I do stumble and fall I get really nervous and I start to feel guilt, shame, and condemnation. I feel stupid for not having already recovered and I get frustrated for struggling with things I don’t think I should be struggling with. In the moments that I give into temptation I have no idea why I do…I do the things that I absolutely know that I shouldn’t do, and I literally can’t do the things that I want to do…at least not out of my own strength. The Apostle Paul actually addresses this exact issue in Romans 7 & 8. He writes:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is the sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is not no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according of the flesh but according to the spirit.” (Romans 7:15-8:4, NIV)

I know that a lot of you don’t have an eating disorder & you can’t 100% relate to the fear of relapse. I do, however, know that you are broken, you have made mistakes, you have regrets, you have fears, and you deal with your sin every day. There are people who are reading this that are completely overwhelmed by their sin and they don’t know what to do. We all feel that way during certain seasons of life. One of the hardest parts about being a Christian is that you are painfully aware of how your brokenness and sin and mistakes hurt yourself, your relationships with other people, and Jesus. It’s easy to feel condemned when we know exactly what we are supposed to be doing but we aren’t doing it. Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We aren’t perfect and it is frustrating. I desperately want to be perfect at recovery, at fighting my sin, at loving other people, at serving Jesus, & so much more, but I know that it is literally impossible living in this broken world. The good news is that because of the gospel, because of the grace of God, we don’t have to hide in our brokenness and shame. If you don’t have a relationship with God..he loves you, even now, when you are rejecting him. If you have a relationship with God…he loved you when you were still a sinner, he loved you when you accepted him as Lord of your life, and he loves you even now, when you continue to fail him every day. God loves his children…no matter what. It isn’t determined by what you and I have done/how we have acted. If you are a Christian God looks at you and sees the blood of Jesus…There isn’t anything in the world that the blood of Jesus can’t recover.

I’m now going to unpack some of the truth that I see in Romans 7 and 8. This is by far not comprehensive or a full analysis…It’s just some truth that God has reminded me of over and over again in my walk with him.

  1. We are not alone in our struggle with sin. We see it in the middle of Romans 7 that Paul, author of 13 books in the new testament, knows exactly what it feels like to wrestle with his sin on a daily basis. When we are bogged down by our sin it is easy to feel like we are the only ones who are tempted/giving into sin/overwhelmed/frustrated. The truth is that we are all far from being alone. We all have junk and messy lives. We all mess up. We all have regrets. It’s important to remind ourselves that we aren’t alone, and that struggling with sin is a normal and expected part of living in this fallen world. Temptation itself isn’t sin. We get in trouble when we respond to our temptation according to our desires and not the word of God. Let me say it again: Temptation isn’t sin. Jesus was tempted in the dessert for 40 days and nights. He knows that it feels like…and he promises to provide us a way out so that we aren’t tempted beyond our ability to resist the temptation (if we are relying on his power). Jesus understands that we will struggle and loves us the same. That’s true love.
  2. When you become a Christian sin is no longer apart of your identity. I have known this fact ever since I became a Christian in 7th grade but it was not until this summer that it actually clicked in my heart. When a person becomes a Christian they are no longer attached with or associated with their sin. I hear Christians all the time say, “I’m so awful. I am such a sinner. I am such a bad Christian. My sin is the worst and so am I.” I’m sorry but I really don’t think this kind of talk is biblical…let me explain. In the New Testament when a person is born-again and dedicates their life to Jesus they are not again referred to as a sinner. When you become a Christian you aren’t a sinner anymore…that isn’t your identity. As my pastor (Steve Berger) would say, “You are a saint that occasionally sins, not a sinner that occasionally saints.” Even in your struggle with deep-rooted strongholds…you are still not a sinner if you are a follower of Jesus. You are not your sin! Your identity is in Jesus….Jesus is who you are. You are a co-heir with him. For the longest time I had a very twisted perception of the gospel. I knew that 100% I was saved and had a relationship with God. I knew that he loved me, but I thought it was my job to perform for him and make sure that I was able to keep doing all of the right things. Every time I messed up I felt like God was super frustrated with me and disappointed. I knew that I was going to heaven but it felt like I was going because God felt obligated to invite me. I felt like a burden not a precious daughter. This summer it finally connected in my head that it isn’t me v.s. God anymore…It’s me and God v.s. my sin, the enemy, and the world. God isn’t against me…he is fighting with me and for me. The sin that I deal with isn’t who I am because in my inner being, at the core of my heart, I am a lover of Jesus, holy, blameless, without fault, pure, and loved by my creator. If you have a relationship with Jesus, this is true for you as well. God isn’t surprised by our sin…he knew it would happen, & he has already taken care of it for us. There is no sin that Jesus’ death on the cross can’t cover. If there were…Jesus would have died for nothing, and the cross would be void of it’s power.
  3. There is no condemnation in Jesus. No means no. Nothing can condemn you, no one can bring a charge against you, and you no longer carry the burden of guilt and shame if you are a follower of Jesus. No sin can bring you too far away from the Lord…no mistake is unforgivable…no slip-up makes you worthless. No person has any right to tell you anything other wise. You aren’t condemned for being imperfect…God condemned sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law may be met in us (Romans 8:3). He made a way for us. He knows, he understands, he has a plan, he forgives, and he works all things for good (even our mistakes).

Tonight was honestly a little bit of a rough night…but I truly am a firm believer in the fact that God works ALL things together for the good of those who love him. My prayer is that this post will encourage some of you who are struggling in a cycle of sin, regret, guilt, and shame. If we don’t remind ourself of the truth it is really easy to fall into that. You aren’t alone, you aren’t condemned, and you have victory in Jesus, you just have to grab hold of it. We just have to grab hold of it and remind ourself of the truth. Preach the gospel to your friends, preach the gospel to your family, and preach the gospel to yourself. Lord knows we all need it 24/7 365 days a year. It is the truth that sets us free.



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