I recently fell into some sin that I'd avoided for a while; the details aren't important, so I won't go into them. But the point to stress here is the disappointment over falling down when you had seen positive indications that you'd finally moved past it, for many months.
I have to confess, I love the feeling of ending a bout with sin and walking away from it. Getting away from whatever it was, and taking some alone time to pray to God and get back to living for Him instead of running away -- it's such a relief. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post.
Most people feel bad after doing something they know is wrong. But there's two different ways to feel bad about something. As a general rule, you can either pity yourself or you can be filled with sorrow over how what you did affected the person you did it against. There are such things as "victimless crimes," where something you do doesn't necessarily hurt another person. But there's no such thing as a "victimless sin," because all sin is ultimately against God. So the appropriate response to your feelings of guilt after doing something wrong is to be anguished over hurting your relationship with your Heavenly Father. The wrong way to react is to run away from God in shame, refusing to deal with Him. The wrong way to react is to make it all about you.
Think about it: "I should be better than this." Really? You should be better than you are? You must think highly of yourself. Stop and realize--this sort of thought is actually PRIDE at its core. You suppose that you have it in yourself to be good. That is why you fail to reconcile with God; you run from Him because in your mind you truly think you can fix your mistakes without His help. It's monumentally arrogant! When you no longer say to yourself, "that's not who I really am--that's not me," and instead admit that you are as rotten as the things you do, then you're ready to accept the fact that only God can help you get out of the hole you've dug for yourself. That's why when you've done something wrong, the right thing to do is not to run away from God, but to run toward Him. He's not our enemy. We're our own worst enemy. He's our friend.
So as soon as you've admitted to yourself that you have sinned, run to God. Find Him in prayer and have the assurance of your salvation restored to you; thank Him for His forgiveness and ask for His help to strengthen you to avoid sin in the future.
That's what I did. And I was really excited when I found this video of R W Glenn saying essentially the same thing that I'd come to recognize on my own:
His illustration with Peter and Judas explains the difference between 'feeling bad in a good way,' and 'feeling bad in a bad way,' as I referenced in the title.
It seems counter-intuitive at first, but I hope you learn to make the habit of running back to God when you stumble into sin, instead of hiding in shame like Adam and Eve did. Forgiveness is a great thing, and it's freely given. You can't earn it, and thanks to God, we don't need to.
~ Rak Chazak