A Note from Kelly: I admit that I tend to be clumsy. It’s easy to get tripped up and find myself on the ground. It’s also easy to fall into sin when I’m not on guard. Whether you find yourself in tripping in the messiness of ministry or you are ministering to others who have slipped, Dr. Deb Douglas’s article today is a good reminder that we have a faithful God who forgives.
We’re walking along; the sun is shining. Life is good. And that’s when we trip. There’s nothing obvious in sight to cause us to trip, but we find ourselves falling. Then the pain, hurt, questions, and embarrassment all follow.
My family was walking down the beach, having fun, and looking like someone should take some pictures. And then I tripped on sand. I tripped as in, I went down. I ate sand. Because I’m the clumsiest person on this planet, it was not surprising. After all, I’d only been out of a cast for a month. There was a lot of laughing, and even I was laughing until the pain hit and the realization that I’d just broken the other foot sunk in. I got up and the vacation continued. Once again, I was surprised at how quickly and easily I had gotten tripped up.
We all trip in life. We say things we shouldn’t. Choose the wrong thing. We sin. We mess up. It can happen just as quickly as tripping on a sandy beach. We may think we are immune to tripping on certain sins. That kind of unrealistic thinking lands us as vulnerable targets to sin.
But there is forgiveness. God eagerly forgives when we turn to Him in truth, confessing, and accepting His forgiveness.
As a minister who focuses on counseling, women who have tripped into sinful choices fill my calendar. They come:
- Discovering why they tripped
- Struggling with forgiveness
- Needing to accept responsibility without being controlled by shame and guilt
- Overwhelmed with a need for secrecy
Here’s what I have learned about helping women who have, through their own sinful choices, tripped up:
- Be honest about her sin.
- Know that everyone needs a safe place to talk about their sin and their burden. Honesty and biblical advice are essential to her recovery.
- Be bold, not judgmental. We all have tripped and sinned.
- Making her sin “OK” is not helpful.
- Suggest boundaries to prevent her from tripping again.
- Pray with her, pray for her, and pray without ceasing.
Teach her about how to experience forgiveness. Share the facts:
- When we ask for forgiveness, God is faithful to forgive.
- We accept God’s forgiveness. With His forgiveness, we forgive ourselves for tripping.
- Feeling forgiven is not the same as being forgiven. God’s forgiveness is a fact, not a feeling. Accept the fact of forgiveness.
- Ask permission to partner her with someone who has successfully survived tripping.
- Consider a mentor or a prayer partner for her as she recovers from a trip.
- Encourage accountability.
- Encourage her to join Celebrate Recovery.
- Clear a path to prevent tripping in the future. Put boundaries in place.
I am clumsy. (It’s part of being dyslexic.) I have tripped since my little incident on the beach, had a couple of black eyes, and a sprain or two. All are easily recovered from, leaving me wiser and more careful. That’s life. It is the same with tripping into sin. We recover. We learn. We grow. God faithfully forgives and restores. Life is good.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.