by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
The last 2 years have been challenging and interesting, to put it mildly.
I’m one of those people who seeks God for a “word” for the year. In late 2019 as I sought God for that very thing what I heard was not one, but two words: Grateful Vision.
In 2020 what I received was the word: Joy.
Little did I understand that those three words combined would be a compass to a lesson and path God would lead me down as well as allowing me to experience (once again) the pains when I think my way is better.
I am a perfectionist, but I’m just horrible at it (I borrowed that phrase from a good friend). Admittedly, that stung a bit when I realized how accurately that describes me.
#1 - We often see things as we are, not as they actually are.
The tendency for many of us is to see what's happening around us through the filter of our current circumstances. In other words, if our situation is troublesome, difficult and very painful, we tend to see the world around us through that lens.
This can send us in a downward spiral and we find ourselves (not everyone I understand) headed into depression-like mindsets. Even those who are typically glass-half-full folks over time slide towards the half-empty viewpoint.
This can be especially true for those in the midst of recovery and a grieving process. And, the holiday seasons can add to this.
In 2020 and into the first half of 2021, the two words, Grateful Vision, quickly vanished from my daily thinking and I found myself battling my old nemesis depression and anxiety.
It was mid 2021 before God opened my eyes, ears and heart to some cherished wounds, fears and anxiety that I’d been harboring in the deep corners of my soul. That’s where this lesson came to light and the journey out began.
Our Response: 2 Corinthians 10:5 “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
#2 - Gratefulness is an antidote for Fear and Anxiety
Choosing gratefulness and thankfulness as a focus of our thoughts and daily actions will begin to displace fear and anxiety (anger also by the way) from our hearts. This does not happen by osmosis or accident.
Make a list of items to be grateful for and place them where you can see them every day. Not only read that list but speak the words out loud a couple of times every day. There’s a powerful transaction and impact on our minds as we hear ourselves speak truth over our own lives.
Seeing gratefulness as part of a daily worship practice is a helpful mindset.
Our Response: The Apostle Paul exhorts us to think this way as he wrote to us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
#3 - Gratefulness Lets Joy Back In
Have you ever felt like the joy in life has just left the building?
That’s what happens when fear, worry and anxiety have the throne of our hearts and souls. It can feel like darkness or heaviness is constantly sitting within us.
It can become exhausting and a drain on our energy and resources. Thinking becomes foggy or a struggle. The ability to focus for long periods of time becomes difficult. This is exactly what I experienced from mid 2020 to mid 2021. It feels like your emotional tank is almost constantly nearly bone dry or close to it.
Sleep can become disturbed or even if you sleep decently, you wake up tired still. If that connects with you in some way, I’m sure you’re not alone nor are going crazy. After all, the last 2 years kicked many of us around a bit.
This lesson on gratefulness and joy hit me in the midst of God leading me back to a wise counselor who helped me process what I was feeling. He helped me to see how my self talk had become toxic and gently re-focused me back to Jesus.
We have a real enemy that has come to, “steal, kill and destroy”. As part of his deceptive methods he relentlessly works to get our eyes off God and on ourselves. He wants to get us distracted and wrapped up in our own desires and little world.
When fear, anxiety and anger (and the like) wiggle their way into our minds, gratefulness and joy begin to be suffocated. Then, Satan can stand back and let us become our own worst enemy.
The lesson hit me hard during a week long sabbatical in September. Sitting in the woods of a retreat center I heard the thin whisper (still small voice) of the Holy Spirit. What He reminded me of was that all my worries about finances, lack of joy in my soul and having forgotten the call to “Grateful Vision” left me feeling very depleted and fearful.
I was truly living in a crippling fear of any financial calamity (imagined), health issue and feeling like I was failing as a man to provide for my wife in a way I believe she deserves.
The bad news: If I can be honest with you, I hated living this way and what made it worse was the awakening to the truth that I’d walked myself right into the valley of the shadow of death.
The good news: Psalm 23:1- 4
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Our Response: Remind ourselves that the Lord is indeed my shepherd. He may not remove us from the valley, but He is walking through the valley with us. He guides, provides and sustains us through it all. He is faithful and will do it.
This song from Josh Baldwin, Evidence continues to be a reminder of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ in my life. God uses this song yet today to guide me back to the truth of Psalm 23.
by John Fort
Director of Training
Have you ever felt anxious about how to respond if your child asks a question about sex? An honest answer for some is to hope they just don’t ask. However, parents know it is better if we do, so that we can be the ones educating them instead of Google or one of their friends.
Even so, we would all like a few pointers for responding to a child’s curiosity about sex, so this blog will attempt to give a few. Here are three ways to speak into a child’s curiosity; two that are proactive and one that is responsive.
1. Get Ahead of Children’s Curiosity
Teaching children about sex protects them from inaccurate and inappropriate ideas about sexuality. When children are educated on God’s design for sex they will be able to spot a counterfeit. Educate to protect.
Children need information about sex at younger ages than was necessary in the past. Pornographic idea surround them. Sooner is safer. Here are two ways we can educate children.
Here are a few books that teach God’s design for sex to consider:
There are a wide array of illustrated encyclopedia-type books for kids on the human body. Many of these have child-appropriate images of the human body that could also be helpful for some families. These go in and out of print too fast to list any by name. You would have to check a local bookstore to find one you feel is right for your family.
When using any of these books, go through them first with your child, asking them if they have any questions as you do. After you have read it with your child, put the book with the other children’s books in your house. Tell your children they can read them any time they like.
Children need more than one reading of a book to fully grasp new ideas. Keeping these books with all the others portrays the idea that God made our bodies and our bodies are good, not something shameful that has to be locked away.
Bodies are not the only aspect of sexuality kids are curious about. Your child will hear a wide array of sexual terms and slang phrases that they will want to understand. There are some you may want to teach them rather than wait for them to be exposed to by someone else when you are not around.
Which words you choose to teach are up to you. One pastor I spoke with said when he was only eight his father taught him the meaning of every sexual slang word, including curse words, that his dad could think of. The dad wanted his son (who eventually became a pastor) to have that discussion together, not with other kids on a playground somewhere.
This pastor told me he was very grateful to his father for doing this. He was grateful that he could learn those words and what they really meant in a non-sexualized context. He said it was helpful to hear them in a discussion that also included how we should honor God and each other, rather than hearing them embedded in a sexual joke. The pastor said it helped him avoid inappropriate sexual talk as well as pornography as a child because he understood the greater context of sexuality and how these words did not reflect or honor God.
I am not suggesting you do the same as this pastor’s father. You know your child better than anyone and know what words they may need to learn from you first. The point of this story is to show that learning what words mean, even “bad” words, can be a protective measure if done correctly by a parent.
2. Responding to Questions
It is good to get out ahead of a child’s questions as outlined above, but there is no way to anticipate all the questions about sex a child will have. The hope is a child will to bring these questions to us, not Google or the older kids down the street.
Ask Me Anything
When we read a book about sexuality or have a conversation about sex, you can end with, “If you every have any question about sex at all, I want you to ask me. Any question at all. You will never be in trouble for asking questions.”
Some kids are innately shy and have a hard time asking questions like this out loud. If your child is like this, create a blank parent-child journal for you and your child. Ask your child to write his or her questions about sex (or anything else that is personal) and leave the journal somewhere for you to respond to later.
That is the easy part. The hard part is responding well when children ask difficult questions about sex. It is not uncommon for children to ask questions we never expected. Here are some examples of real questions kids have asked in Christian homes.
I will be the first to admit it is difficult to remain calm when children this young ask those kinds of questions. However, keeping calm is very important. How we react will determine if our child comes to us with future questions.
I was the 9-year-old child who asked my mother what masturbation was. Unfortunately, my mother did not react well. She became very agitated and refused to look at me. I don’t recall what she said, I only remember how upset my question made her. I never asked either of my parents another question about sex and went to older teenagers I knew instead. The education I got was very inappropriate and damaging.
Perhaps we need to practice answering this kind of question with our spouse or another adult. We need to be ready to smile and say, “I’m so glad you asked me,” when our kids ask us difficult questions about sex. We want to reward them for coming to us instead of someone else.
3. Drawing Questions Out
Even when we do everything right our children do not always think to ask a parent the questions they have that are rolling around in their heads. Parents should draw their children’s questions out on a fairly regular basis.
Every once in a while, more often as our children get older, have planned conversations about sex. Here are some tips to making those more effective.
Create a Judgement Free Zone
The term, “Judgement Free Zone” actually came from teenagers when Be Broken surveyed a group of Christian teens. The survey was to discover what parents can do to make talking about sex feel safer at home. Teens told Be Broken that they want a “Judgement-Free Zone” to have those conversations in.
So, parents can start a conversation about sex by saying, “We are going to have a judgement free zone. During this time I will not judge or punish you for anything you say or ask.” This gives our kids a sense of safety.
Ask About Others First
Even in a Judgment-Free environment kids may feel unsure how parents will react to difficult questions about sex. One way to help is to show them how you will react. Give kids a way to see how you will react to information about sex.
Start by asking what they are seeing and hearing other kids say and do. This is safer because you are not asking about them. Then let your kids watch you react to what they say about their friends before they have to ask their own questions.
You could ask:
If we can remain calm and thank them for sharing, this will prove to them that we are safe people to ask difficult questions about sex. Then we can ask, “What questions do you have about sex, or any of the things you see other people doing?”
We also have to watch our kids for signs of curiosity. This could be a child staring at an advertisement of scantily clad people, a look of confusion when they see something slightly sexual on a show or movie, or even while at the beach.
When we see our child looking confused or curious when confronted with anything that could be considered even slightly sexualized, we should ask them about it.
We might ask:
I know I often had the tendency to want to hurry past rather than press into any questions my children had in those instances. I have found it rewarding, however, when I dared to pause and ask my children what questions they have.
Overall, simply keep in mind that your children will have curiosity about sex at all ages. View them as continually curious. God made them this way, so there is no need to worry about their curiosity. Instead, be there to help them work through their curiosity in a safe, God-honoring way.
by Karla Downing
Founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com
I am a fellow sojourner on this path of healing from sexual betrayal, and I am one of the Wives Care Group leaders. I am going to share one of the most helpful tools I found on the road to healing: A Therapeutic Separation. There were many gifts that our Therapeutic Separation gave both my husband and I, but I will highlight four from the perspective of the betrayed.
1. The gift of fully surrendering my husband to God.
Seven years after the life I thought I had was shattered in an instant by my husband’s confession of sex addiction, I was suddenly staring at blatant evidence of his current acting out (yet again), and I had the personal strength and conviction to tell him to leave our home. By that point in my own recovery journey, I knew how to ride the wave of crisis and to focus on the present moment. I just needed space to get clarity away from my husband’s desperate pleas.
By the next morning, I knew that God was asking me to draw a line in the sand for the sanctity of our marriage. My wise ISA sponsor affirmed my need to try something that we hadn’t tried before; “something different”, and I knew that that was a physical separation: the very thing I did not ever want.
I sent my husband an email saying that I was withdrawing the privileges of a relationship with me (other than to communicate, by email, the logistics of co-parenting our 5 children, ages 7-16), and that it would be at least 6 months before I would reassess this. I also informed him that I had taken the entire balance in our savings account and had moved it to a new savings account in my name only. He responded by telling me I was making the right decision, because things were worse than I knew. I had tried in so many ways to help him. I needed to let him face the consequences of his continued behavior, and to fully surrender him to God.
2. Physical space to prioritize caring for my own broken heart and body.
I didn’t know the term “betrayal trauma” in 2010, but I experienced all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual symptoms. My body was frozen in terror, trying to reconcile the love of my life that I knew with the actions and thinking patterns that my husband confessed. I had a hard time sleeping next to him, and an even harder time crying around him. Somehow it always turned into me comforting him because I triggered his shame. I had 5 little kids who I needed to care for, so I sucked up all the pain, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. My grief was frozen.
I developed depression and eventually an autoimmune disease. As I kept working on my own recovery, I learned more about “putting my oxygen mask on first '' and the importance of self-care. Asking my husband to move out of our home allowed me to have our bedroom space as my very own. I could cry, and pray myself to sleep without worrying about him. I could put on music in the middle of the night when I was awakened with grief and not disturb anyone. I had a door I could lock during the day to seek quiet in the middle of a busy house full of kids if I was triggered or sad or needed a nap. I had physical space to prioritize my needs.
3. The opportunity to demonstrate to myself that I will be ok without my husband.
This gift relates to #1 and #2 above but from a slightly different angle. No one gets married wanting a divorce. My husband and I met our first year out of high school at a Bible school and every aspect of my life presumed we would grow old together.
And then suddenly my reality was that I had been out of the workforce over 15 years, my nursing license was no longer transferable to our current location, and I was finally accepting that my marriage might not survive this addiction. But I had such a strong sense that I would be OK.
I was no longer naïve or shocked by my husband's behavior. I had already survived things I could never have imagined. I had more tools and more support than on my original D-day, and I’d seen so many women I admired courageously endure divorce and they were thriving and healing, even without their marriages. I knew it would be hard, but that my ultimate relationship was with Jesus. I’m sure it also helped that my kids were older.
If my husband couldn’t or wouldn’t do everything needed to give our marriage a new start, I was going to be OK as a single mom. I knew that divorce would bring me grief, but grief was the reality no matter if my marriage survived or ended, and I was no longer afraid of the pain. I began the hard emotional and spiritual labor of becoming a fully functioning adult.
4. A written agreement outlining the goals and details of the separation.
Practically speaking, a therapeutic separation is a well thought out agreement. After a few months of no contact, my husband sent me a worksheet for creating a Therapeutic Separation Agreement and asked me to consider creating an intentional plan.
Eventually we met with a therapist to read our individual answers and agree to the plan needed to prevent me from filing for divorce, as well as what changes I needed to see in order to take down my no contact wall and take slow and steady steps towards a new relationship with my husband. His answers demonstrated that he knew he had a long way to go, that he was taking personal responsibility for the damage he had caused our relationship, and that he was prioritizing our kids' stability regardless of whether we were separated, together, or divorced. I used it as an opportunity to raise my bar higher, and follow the newer betrayal trauma model of healing that APSATS and other attachment-focused professionals use to help couples heal from betrayal.
I knew that I had already lost the marriage I wanted, and that there was no quick path out of pain. I knew I could take my time, and watch and wait from a safe distance to see if reconciliation was even possible.
If you are not safe in your marriage, if your body is tired and broken trying to navigate forgiveness and love with an addict who isn’t in recovery, if you are ready to raise your bar and stand for what you believe your marriage vows meant: I encourage you to explore the option of a Therapeutic Separation.
And for any struggling addicts reading this: if you are ready to focus on your own healing and stop trying to keep your marriage at all costs (by lying), I encourage you to “put your oxygen mask on first” and go get well. Trust God to take care of your wife.
*To learn more about what exactly a Therapeutic Separation is, I highly recommend this blog by Vicki Tidewell Palmer and the book Taking Space by Robert J. Bucchicchio
by Andrea Stunz
Volunteer Wives Care Leader
You might be wondering why I am praying for my husband who chose to betray our marriage covenant. Honestly, sometimes I wonder the same thing.
There are two reasons. One is that it is impossible for me to stay angry with someone I am earnestly praying for. And two, I long for peace. Max Lucado writes in his book, Anxious for Nothing, “The path to peace is paved with prayer.” In these days of utter turmoil, peace sounds very very good.
In Lysa TerKeurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, she breaks Psalm 51 down in a way that allows its meaning to settle in deep. If David, one who committed unthinkable, sinful acts, can sing a song asking God for change and restoration, perhaps my husband will ask the same and be granted the same measure of grace God gave David, the man after God’s own heart. And what a gift it is to have the opportunity to participate in and witness that hoped-for change and restoration.
I don’t want you to read that I think praying for my husband lets him off the hook for his behavior. All things can be forgiven but not all things are excusable. Something else I don’t want you to read is that I think I’m somehow better than my husband. I don’t come to this prayer from a place of arrogance. I haven’t done what he has done but I, too, have my broken places and am a sinner in need of grace. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23)
Here are five quick things I have come to understand about prayer in the realm of marriage betrayal:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-23 NIV)
After reading TerKeurst’s book, I committed to focus on praying Psalm 51 over my husband. If you are in a season of healing from betrayal, I would like to gently cyber hug you and tell you how I genuinely wish you weren’t. I wish I weren’t either. But, alas, here we are. So, let’s join together and pray Psalm 51 over our husbands. Let’s pray for their hearts to be softened toward repentance and renewal. Oh, what a hoped-for day when we see our husband’s spirits, souls, and bodies find their way to integrity and, if at all possible, our marriages restored – for the glory of God.
With a humble heart, pray with me.
Psalm 51 NIV
For the director of music. A Psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on (him), O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out (his) transgressions.
2 Wash away all (his) iniquity
and cleanse (him) from (his) sin.
3 For (he) know(s) (his) transgressions,
and (his) sin is always before (him).
4 Against you, you only, (has he) sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely (he) was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time (his) mother conceived (him).
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught (him) wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse (him) with hyssop, and (he) will be clean;
wash (him), and (he) will be whiter than snow.
8 Let (him) hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from (his) sins
and blot out all (his) iniquity.
10 Create in (him) a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within (him).
11 Do not cast (him) from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from (him).
12 Restore to (him) the joy of your salvation
and grant (him) a willing spirit, to sustain (him).
13 (That he) will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver (him) from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God (his) Savior,
and (may his) tongue sing of your righteousness.
15 Open (his) lips, Lord,
(may his) mouth declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or (he) would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 (May his) sacrifice, O God, (be) a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
May our tears of sorrow become songs of redemptive joy.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5-6 NIV)
This article was originally published in January, 2019 on emptyplatefullheart.com. It was edited by the author for consensual publication by BeBroken Ministries.
by John Fort
Be Broken Director of Training
Let’s be honest, there are certain questions we hope our children won’t ask. We are not bad parents for feeling this way. We don’t want to give our children unwise or uninformed answers. Part of our fear of answering difficult questions comes from a place of wanting to give good responses, but not always knowing what those are.
When a child asks a question about transgenderism, however, they do need a response. This means we need to be ready to reply. The good news is, a good response to questions about transgenderism does not need to be complicated.
The word “transgender” encompasses a sea of ideas, questions, thoughts, and situations, which is why it feels so confusing to us. The concept of gender is changing so rapidly in our culture that it feels impossible to keep up. It probably is, but that is okay.
A simple answer to questions about transgenderism does not exist. However, a simple answer is not what our children need. Our children need to learn to process complicated questions like, “What is transgenderism?” That is something we can teach.
Questions about transgenderism can come in many forms. Kids hear people all around them talking about gender in ways they don’t really understand. It leads to questions like the following:
You don’t have to understand all the issues to help children process these questions.
The first step when a child asks a question about gender it to invite them into your calm. Joining a child in their chaotic feelings will make them feel unsafe. When a child asks a question about gender—or any difficult question for that matter—slow down, take a deep breath, and relax your body. Move to a state of calm before you even try to respond.
If you feel fear, anger, or frustration rising up within you, deal with that first. Those are reactions that will not help your child. Relax before you talk.
If you are worried that you will not be able to react calmly to this kind of question, then start now practicing the discussions outlined below with other adults. Repeat these conversations until you can respond to the questions listed above and still feel calm.
Your First Actions
Before saying anything you should do something with your body that signals to your child that it was good that they asked you this question. Move closer to them. Face them. Kneel down if your child is still young and small, to get on their level.
Pause and let them see your face before you talk. Smile at them before you speak. Maybe even hug them.
Your body says more than your words, so use your body well.
Your First Words
The first words out of a parent’s mouth in response to this kind of question is very important. Our first words are more important than all the rest that follow. Our first words tell our child whether we are safe people to bring difficult questions to.
Here are some examples of really good first words to say:
Next we ask questions to better understand why our child is coming to us. It is very normal for us to worry when our child asks a question about something like transgenderism. We worry what influences have already affected them and we worry that our child may be struggling with gender themselves. It is normal for a parent to have these concerns.
Part of us may want to launch into a long lecture in hopes we can cover up the things we are worried about. Kids are not fans of lectures, however. It is unlikely that we would know what to say anyway without learning more from our children first. Questions are much more helpful.
We need to learn where our child’s question is coming from before we know how to respond. We also want to know what thoughts our child has been considering before they came to us. Here are some discovery questions you might ask:
We want to ask gently rather than make our child feel interrogated. We might even add that we are asking because want to be sure we really understand their question. Children want to be understood and this will make them feel cared for.
Critical Thinking Questions
After asking discovery questions parents may be tempted to launch into a teaching moment. That isn’t necessarily inappropriate, but there is another way. We can use questions to direct their thinking to the underlying concept of gender.
Here are some critical thinking questions for younger kids:
Here are some critical thinking questions for older kids:
We want to ask lots of questions before we make statements of our own. We want to engage our child’s mind and heart first. Even when we do share our thoughts, it is best to be short and concise rather than give a long lecture.
Here are some thoughts we might sum up with. These may be repeating things our child said when we asked them questions like the above, but repetition can be good.
Affirm Your Child’s Gender
An issue American kids face is that our culture has very narrow definitions of what it means to be male or female, masculine or feminine, compared to most of the world, and compared to the Bible.
In the Bible men hugged, kissed, danced, and played musical instruments. Women in the Bible risked their lives to save others, led armies, killed evil men, ran businesses, and built cities. It is not uncommon for the boys and girls in our culture who live most like men and women in the Bible are the ones who our culture would suggest don’t act like their gender.
All children need to be affirmed in their gender. All children sometimes feel insecure in their gender. We should regularly affirm the way God made them to live our their masculinity or femininity.
Here are some things you could do:
When My Kid is Confused
This blog does not address children who are confused about their own gender. That is a much longer topic to deal with. However, we want to point any parent in that situation to some sources of help. Here are two resources you might consider:
Children do not have questions about gender just once. Like all of us, children circle back to questions over and over and need to process their questions repeatedly. We can help them.
Perhaps bring the conversation up yourself sometime. We could ask, “What are you hearing about gender these days,” followed up by, “What do you think about that?” This keeps the conversation going.
Again, our kids do not need a lecture, they just need help processing their questions and feelings. We can do this best by asking each other questions and having open and honest discussions.
We should also keep affirming our children’s gender the entire time they are in our care. A single affirmation is never enough, especially in the world we live in.
You will mess up these conversations from time to time. No parent is perfect. Your kid does not expect perfection and will forgive you when you apologize. Let’s simply work together to keep these conversations going.
Sex & Anxiety: Teen Edition A series of very short videos for adolescents and parents to go through together. This series helps families address the kinds of things that commonly cause anxiety around sexuality for adolescents.
by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder and President of Be Broken
If you want to live a life of sexual integrity, you need to improve at resisting sexual temptation. If you don't improve at the point of temptation, all other learning and practices won't matter much.
In this post, I want to unload the best ideas for resisting sexual temptation that I've gathered and practiced in over 20 years of personal pursuit of greater integrity and professional ministry to thousands of sexual addicts.
These ideas are more practical than philosophical. After all, in the moment of temptation you need to take action. I hope these simple ideas will help you make better choices when tempted.
If you have some ideas that have helped you, I'd love to hear them. Send me your ideas for resisting sexual temptation, or post them in the comment section below.
Here are 7 ideas for resisting sexual temptation:
1. "I don't need to know that!"
"You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5)
Every sexual temptation is an attempt to convince you that you need to know something that you don't. In other words, temptation is inviting you to "peek over the fence" to see what's on the other side.
One way to resist such temptations is simply to tell yourself: "I don't need to know that!"
God created us originally to only know good. But Satan convinced Eve and Adam that good wasn't good enough; they would be "better" if they knew good and evil. He tempted them by convincing them they needed to know something they didn't. This is at the heart of every temptation.
I realize saying "I don't need to know that" may be easier said than done in the moment of temptation, but give it a try. You might learn to relish such "not knowing."
I have been telling myself for over 20 years "I don't need to know that" in response to thousands of temptations. I can testify from experience, such "ignorance" truly is bliss.
2. Run Away!
"Flee sexual immorality..." (1 Cor. 6:18a)
Temptation of any kind is inviting you to stay and move toward it. This is why God's Word tells us to flee!
There are likely very few times in which you physically can't move away from temptation (for instance, if you are in an airplane). Most of the time, however, the option to move is available. Take it!
Interestingly, when you physically move away from temptation you are also activating other parts of your body to help with redirecting your attention. Such parts include your circulatory and respiratory systems which help with blood flow and oxygen to your brain, giving your prefrontal cortex an opportunity to "light up" and make a wise choice.
3. Look for God
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13; emphasis mine)
Maybe the furthest person from your mind when you are sexually tempted is God, but you are certainly on His mind in that moment. In fact, He already knew (before you were born) that you would face that particular temptation -- and He has provided a way out for you!
Since it is true that God provides a way out for every temptation you could face, why not look for God and His way out when you're tempted? The more you train yourself to look for God when you're tempted the sooner you will resist temptation and get back to God's business in your life.
4. Talk to Your Future Self
You have probably heard (or said) the phrase, "If I knew then what I know now..." It is a way of saying that you would have made a better choice in your past if you had the information then that you have now.
What if you learned to reverse that process? Instead of wishing a different choice on your past self, what if you "talked" to your future self when you are tempted? Such a "conversation" might go like this:
You: Hey, future self, if I say yes to this temptation where does that lead me?
Future You: You will have a few moments of excitement brought on by adrenaline and dopamine and endorphins, followed by a crash that results in disappointment and shame. Your soul will feel heavy.
You: So, what happens if I say no to this temptation?
Future You: You will have a struggle for a brief time while you navigate yourself away from the temptation, followed by a deep sense of relief and gratitude to God. Your soul will feel light.
Some self-talk can be very healthy and constructive. Give it a try. I think your future self will thank you.
5. Phone a Friend
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. -Galatians 6:2
Temptation is very personal, but that doesn't mean you need to face it alone. It is important to have some close friends who know your struggles and can help you resist temptations when they arise.
Thankfully, the world of technology we live in today makes it quite easy to reach out in the moment of temptation. Sadly, though, very few use this technology for this reason. Fear and shame can often paralyze us from reaching out for help when we need it.
I suggest that when you reach out to a friend for help to resist temptation that you connect with them verbally. Text or email just doesn't have the same effect as getting on the phone and speaking with a friend about the struggle you are facing right now.
When sexual temptation strikes, phone a friend and bear the burden together. There is strength in numbers when it comes to successfully resisting temptation.
For a simple, but effective, tool to help you reach out for help when tempted, check out this amazing app from our friends at Triggered.app.
6. Turn "What If" into "What Is"
It is very common when tempted to get on a "what if" train of thought. This creates all kinds of scenarios in the mind about what might happen if this or that decision is made. But it is important to recognize that everything about "what if" thinking is speculative; it isn't yet real.
Therefore, a good way to combat "what if" thinking, and to resist sexual temptation, is to replace "what if" with "what is."
"What is" thinking brings your mind back into reality. It grounds your thoughts in truth. Sometimes this is as simple as looking around the room you are in and naming items you see. Lamp. Chair. Bookcase. Window.
This may seem "silly," but I encourage you to try it. You might be amazed at how something so simple can break your "what if" fantasy thinking and bring you back into the real world. And once you are "reconnected" with the here and now you are in a much better frame of mind for making a different choice about whatever you do next.
7. Choose the Narrow Way
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14)
A life of sexual integrity doesn't form and mature naturally. In other words, resisting sexual temptation is not easy. There is struggle. It is a battle to say no to temptation. But it is a battle that is worth it because victory leads to peace and joy; to life itself.
Jesus said that the "easy way" is a wide gate that leads to destruction and many take that path, but that the "hard way" that leads to life is a narrow gate and only a few find it. This doesn't mean that God is cruel and wants to make it impossible for you to enjoy life. It means that you will "reap what you sow" when it comes to the investments you make in choosing to be a man or woman of greater integrity.
Will you choose the wide, "easy" gate or the narrow way of Jesus? Temptation would want you to believe that the easy way is the way to real satisfaction, but I think we have all walked that path enough to know that is a lie. While the narrow way doesn't look appealing (or possible) on the front end, it leads to lush pastures of true and abiding satisfaction for the soul.
Let's be courageous and take the narrow way when it comes to resisting sexual temptation.
I hope these ideas have helped. If you have ideas that have helped you resist temptation, please post them in the comments below.
by Kimberly Johnson
Counselor, Founder of Divine Identity
“Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you . . . “
Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)
I have one client in particular who is doing the laborious work of looking at her brokenness and letting Jesus heal her. Let’s call her “Jen” (not her real name).
Not surprisingly, most weeks when we began our session she would say something like, “This healing stuff is hard work, and I knew it would be. But I just didn’t know how difficult!” Every time she said this I would attempt to encourage her by reminding her that the difficulty doesn’t indicate that she is doing something wrong, but quite the opposite. In her case, it indicated that she actually was doing the real work correctly.
In our most recent session there was somewhat of a shift in our conversation. It went something like this:
Me: Hello, Jen. How are you?
Jen: You know, I’m actually okay!
Me: Hmmm, I think I’m hearing that as a good “okay” and a positive thing. Is that correct?
Jen: Yes, it really is!
Me: Excellent! What is making the difference?
Jen: (With tears in her eyes) I am beginning to see Jesus as my Prince Charming. Coming to rescue me and whisk me away.
Me: Wow, Jen! That is such a beautiful picture you’re painting. What is Jesus whisking you from, and what is He whisking you to?
Jen: (Even more tears) He is taking me away from my false ideas of Who He is. He is taking me away from the false ideas of who I think I am, and how He views me. He is taking me to a place where I understand that I am unconditionally loved and accepted by Him.
Incredible! This was great news. I was so excited for and rejoicing with Jen. Jen is not unique in that what originally led her to me was a struggle with porn and/or masturbation. She was somewhat unique, however, in that the sexual acting out struggle she experienced was not current. She had stopped the acting out some time ago. But she was plagued by the shame of the acting out and low self-worth from the things in her past. Jen needed a rescuer, and she found One in Jesus.
What honest woman would say she hasn’t wished for a Prince Charming to come and rescue her? The good news is, we have One. He is sitting mounted on His horse waiting to swoop in and rescue you. Not because He thinks you are helpless or pitiful, but because He delights in you and longs to take you to the place He prepared for you -- a place of love, light, truth and freedom. It is a place where you are no longer confined by life dominating habits and the small thinking of the lies of the flesh and the enemy.
“He brought me forth also into a large place: He delivered me, because He delighted in me.” -Psalm 18:19 (KJV)
You see, for most of us the true thing we need rescuing from is not the sexual behavior that we have grown to loathe, though we often think that is the case. Certainly, we do strive to abolish this habit in practical ways (many of which can be found here or at CovenantEyes). The behavior, however, is only a symptom of something deeper we need to be rescued from.
Jesus didn’t come to simply help us stop our sexual acting out. Jesus came to rescue us from the lies and long held shame beliefs that caused us to act out in the first place and then are often solidified by our acting out.
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
And on and on the list of shame lies could go…
I want to encourage you to be honest, and ask yourself what lies you have believed that you need rescuing from. For me, as I broke free from my own addiction I believed many of the above lies -- and even more! But as I began to dare to believe that Jesus not only came to rescue me from those lies, but longs to do so, I started to experience His freedom not only in my mind, but in my behaviors.
You see, as I realized I truly was valuable to Him the need for my coping mechanisms lessened as I learned that He was taking care of me and protecting me. As I had the audacity to cling to scripture and test Him as my Comforter I found I no longer needed to come up with my own false comforter of porn and masturbation.
What God did and is doing for Jen and for me He will also do for you. He doesn't show favoritism, after all!
Take that first step of trusting Him to be Who He said He will be for you.
Resources for Women
40 Days of Purity
Online Course for Women
This online course is for women who want to break free from pornography or any other unwanted sexual behaviors. Written and facilitated by Kimberly Johnson, counselor and founder of Divine Identity.
Learn more and enroll
by John Fort
Director of Training
Most parents today are aware their children face numerous dangers to their sexuality. Parents know it will take work to protect their kids from outside influences. When I am speaking to parents I don’t spend much time trying to convince parents their kids need help because the parents who come already know. What parents usually do not understand, however, is how important their own story is as a tool for protecting their child.
Instead, parents are usually afraid that their children might find out about their past. Whether we are fathers or mothers, we are afraid that if our children knew the poor choices we made in our own past they would no longer respect us. Or we fear that telling our children about something we did with our sexuality will make them think it is okay for them to do as well. Most of the time telling our child about our past does exactly the opposite.
WHY YOUR KIDS NEED TO HEAR YOUR STORY
In 2019, Be Broken took a survey of Christian teens to find out why so many church-going families did not talk about sex at home. We looked for obstacles to overcome so teens were more willing to talk about sex with their parents. When asked what they feared most about talking to their parents about sex there were only two answers teenagers gave:
This was an anonymous, written survey that was supposed to be private, but one boy, who looked about 14, just blurted out,
“We just want to have a punishment-free conversation!”
When asked what things they would want to be in place at home for them to feel comfortable talking with their parents, these were their answers:
This means that the Christian teenagers we surveyed wanted more openness, including about their parents’ past. They are afraid to say this to their parents, but not afraid to say it on an anonymous survey.
The fact is children and teenagers do struggle with sexual feelings and want to talk about it. The fact is when a child discovers their parent struggled with the same thing they are struggling with it makes them feel understood by their parent, not more distant. The fact is, when a parent shares their story it is the story that connects the parent and child, more than anything else can.
Here is a quote from a 15-year old who struggled with pornography and his comments about hearing his dads story as he started working to resist porn:
What I really want to know is that my parents have gone through the same things as me. Knowing my parents have gone through similar things makes me feel less abnormal. Knowing they went through, and maybe got through, what I’m going through gives me more hope.
Our children do (or will) struggle with sexual feelings they don’t know what to do with. They will not always manage their sexuality in the most mature way, just as we didn’t. We’ve already seen that kids don’t think their parents will understand how they feel when it comes to sexuality. If they never hear our story, including confusion we had about our sexual feelings as well as mistakes we made, they will believe we don’t understand them. They will feel more isolated.
Sharing our story is the leverage to open the door to healing conversations about sex with our children. Children don’t look down on their parents for failures we had as children, they admire us for having the courage to admit it. Sharing something as personal as the feeling we got the first time we saw a naked image throws the door open to a deeper relationship with our child. Sharing our exposure to pornography and mistakes we made with our sexuality makes them feel, as the teenager above put it so well, less abnormal.
WHEN TO SHARE
Kids today are typically exposed to sexual information and situations earlier than previous generations. Here is a guide a therapist gave me for parents to use to know when to start different conversations about sex:
What does that mean? Most kids are exposed to pornography accidentally or because a friend showed them. If this happened to you when you were 10, then you need to start talking with your child about pornography when they are 8. Today, over 50% of children see pornography before they are 11, and a lot of those are by 8, if not sooner.
Just because you don’t think your child has been exposed to pornography does not mean they have not. Only 7% of girls and 9% of boys tell their parents when they are exposed to pornography. They are afraid they will be in trouble, even if it was not their fault. Parents have to tell our story with porn to prove to our kids it is safe for them to share their story.
Whatever you are willing to talk about in a healthy way with your kids signals to your kids that it is okay for them to talk about it, too.
Pornography is just one thing we can use our story to leverage conversation. Hearing sexual jokes, seeing a non-pornographic nude image somewhere, hearing older kids talk about sex, and sexual experimentation or abuse are all things we can share about if we experienced them. Most of these things, like coming across a nude image somewhere, are things all children experience.
We tell our stories when we realize our child is old enough to experience the same thing.
WHAT TO SHARE
There are some important guidelines to sharing our story with our children.
No Secrets. Never tell your child something about you that your spouse does not know or that you do not mind them knowing. It is never okay to put a child in a position where they feel they have to keep a secret about one parent from the other parent.
Age Appropriate. We only share what is appropriate to share with our child at the age they currently are. This means we may tell the same story again later with more detail.
For example, let’s say we realize we need to talk about pornography with our child because they are 8 and could be exposed at any time, if they have not been already. We might say something like, “When I was a kid one of my friends showed me pictures of naked people. It gave me funny feelings inside but I was afraid to tell my parents. I want you to tell me if you see something like that so we can talk about it. You will not be in trouble for telling me.”
When the same child is 11 or 12 we might retell the story but then include how we went back and looked at pornography ourselves later on purpose and needed help to stop. This gives the child permission to tell you if the same thing happens to them.
No Details. We do not want to paint a picture in our child’s head. We share broad categories of our past behavior. We can use words and phrases like, naked images, masturbation, jokes about sex, stories about sex, and so on. This makes sure our child understands what we are talking about but does not go into graphic detail.
Watch Their Reaction. If you see your child’s eyes grow wide, their face turn white, and their mouth drop open, it is probably time to stop talking. You know your kid better than anyone. You can tell when they are feeling shocked and overwhelmed. If they start to feel this way you should stop and comfort them. Ask how they are feeling. Ask if they need to stop talking about this for today. You can always come back to the conversation a different day.
AFTER YOU SHARE
Questions. After you share your story, always ask them if they have any questions or if they want to say anything. Your story may remind them of a question they had about sexuality that they’ve been wanting to ask. Your story may be the lever that gets your child to come to you with questions they need answers to. Or they may share that they too have experienced what you just shared. If so, be ready to comfort them and support them.
I am Safe to Tell. Next tell your child that you want them to tell you if what you shared, or something similar, ever happens to them. Assure them that they will not be in trouble if they tell you, even if it was their fault. This is really important and is explained more in this blog post from CovenantEyes.
Do Something Together. Instead of each of you running off to do your own thing after you share your story, do something together. Make sharing stories something your child associates with bonding with Mom or Dad. Take them to ice cream, watch a fun movie together, build something together with Legos, or whatever your child likes to do.
I understand that most parents are afraid for their children to find out anything about our own sexual past. But if we hide our story from our children we are cheating them out of what we have learned as a result. We are refraining from using the most powerful tool to opening up healthy conversations about sexuality. We are leaving our children to believe we don’t understand how they feel, when we do.
I encourage you to think of something your child could experience at their age that you have gone through. Then plan a time to get alone with them to share that part of your story. Have a plan of what you will do afterward that is fun. If you are nervous, practice telling your story to your spouse or another adult. You child is waiting.
For more resources, visit our Family Care Resources.
by Dan Wobschall
Director of Gateway to Freedom
Stories. They can be fiction or nonfiction. There can be varying degrees of truth and creative freedom in the mixing of the two.
What is also true about most stories is their ability to connect with us at a personal level. They enable us to enter into another person's life even to a point of empathy, depending on our personal experiences relating to a given story.
The greatest of all nonfiction stories ever written and told is that of Jesus the Christ. The core tenants of His story are amazing. God in full deity chose to come into His creation in the form of His own creation. Mankind.
Jesus, born of a virgin girl in a very unclean stable, grew up experiencing the typical life of a child in the culture and society of that time. Yet fully God and fully human He grew up until He fulfilled the mission for which God sent Him: death on a cross. Many believed that was the end of Jesus' story.
It was not.
It may have been a chapter change, but Sunday morning, the third day was a barn burner of a new chapter of new beginnings! Jesus rose from the grave. He is alive! And Jesus' story continues to unfold before us today as the Gospel goes forth and his name is proclaimed.
He continues to set captives free and welcome His brothers and sisters into the family of God. What a story!
What about Your Story?
You do have a story. A story that can inspire others. Encourage at least one person (and likely many more) to keep going another hour, day, week and beyond. Believe it or not, your story matters.
You may say “but my story is a mess right now. How can I encourage anyone else with that?” Faithfulness to the truth of your story and transparency as you keep moving forward, no matter how slow it seems can and will give others hope.
And hope is at a premium in today’s culture and world.
God is the ultimate giver of Hope, and through Jesus the Christ can empower your story, even if it’s currently messy, to have impact and give hope to another. Hope usually looks a lot like someone who refuses to give up.
Below are the lyrics from My Story sung by Big Daddy Weave and written by Michael Weaver, Jason Ingram
If I told you my story
You would hear Hope that wouldn't let go
And if I told you my story
You would hear Love that never gave up
And if I told you my story
You would hear Life, but it wasn't mine
If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him
But if people knew!
I can almost hear some voices saying words akin to: Yeah, but if people heard my story, what I’ve done, there is no way anyone would listen or learn from it -- or even care. Can I be boldly honest with you (I’m going to anyway…) that’s a lie straight from the father of all lies, Satan himself.
Here’s what I know. God works in and through our confession and testimony and Satan hates it.
As we learn to share our story in proper context, form and settings we are living out James 5:16 where we are called to “confess our sins to one another and to pray for one another so that we can be healed.” The enemy of our soul hates the truth, which sets us free and will do whatever he can to keep you quiet about your story. Especially if we can sing; “Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him!”
Now I will qualify this story telling with a word of caution. If you’ve never shared your story with anyone (outside of a counselor or in a similar environment) then getting wise guidance on how and when to do so is important.
It’s easy for the best of intentions to go sideways on you here. Sharing too much at the wrong time or environment can be painful or overwhelming. I’ve done this too many times, especially early on in my recovery journey. Please learn from my mistakes and the guidance of others.
I Think I’m Ready to Tell My Story. What now?
Great question. We have a form that you can use (See link below) that you can use to assemble your story. If you’ve never given your story a shape or words (a voice), this form can be a great starting point.
And you don’t have to go alone. You can submit the form and someone from our staff will be happy to follow up with you after you’ve hit the submit button. This is a short story version of the form.
At Be Broken Ministries we value story. Your story. Your story and ours are in a continual state of being written (and rewritten!) with new pages and chapters being added by the day.
The song ends like this: “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long.”
I pray that in the days ahead, this too will be your song.
How to Tell Your Story
The information you submit on this form is confidential. Only care members of our staff will see your entries. We are here to help you, not harm you.
by Andrea Stunz
Volunteer Wives Care Leader
Growing up in Brazil, I was the little girl they propelled through the wrought-iron burglar bars on the windows when a neighbor locked their keys inside. I was small, and I liked it.
Now, I’m not small. But you know what? I love and respect my body more than I ever have. I have lingering issues from sexual abuse and betrayal trauma, but, most days, I can love myself more than I ever imagined. I see my body with gratitude and thank her for carrying me through my years of tears. She consumed too many convenience foods and endured countless sleepless nights. It’s been a brutal ride. My body has definitely kept the score, but she took one for the team. I love her for that! She deserves all the grace.
I’ve been a size ten, and I wasn’t happy about my body. I was a size six, and I wasn’t satisfied. A size zero? Not content. Now at a size eighteen, I’m more confident than ever before.
It has taken a decade of healing to come to terms with how fully Jesus loves me. In that love, I now have the freedom to love myself. I am his child, his beloved daughter. He created me, and he can’t not love me. My body needs some attention, and now that I’m more settled in other areas of my healing, I have the margin for that. For a while, I didn’t; there were other more pressing matters.
Those of us who experience betrayal and/or other sexual wounds have been fed lies about who we are, and many of us have believed them.
Whether spoken to us or perceived by us, many of us have come to believe negative messages about our bodies. In most if not all of us, trauma from addiction and abuse produces a broken identity; our body image is definitely a casualty.
I can’t heal your negative body image, but I can offer a few tips that have helped me.
When thinking negatively about your body, ask yourself these questions and consider your motivation.
In keeping with the 4 C’s for Betrayal Trauma that we learn in our Wives Care Groups, I came up with 4 C’s for Body Image Recovery:
If you are on the path of not accepting your body – you are in for a very long battle – against an enemy you have no power to defeat. Nature, time, biology, fate…
You don’t have the weapons to fight those powers.
Wave the white flag.
It is then that your life will truly begin.
An excerpt from, Wave the White Flag, by Donna Ashworth
I believe negative body image messages are fear-based. We fear not being enough, being too much, not fitting in. We fear not belonging, not being desirable, or not achieving a certain level of success.
Love is the antidote to a negative body image. Perfect love casts out fear. God alone helps us become who he created us to be. Choose the love you are worthy of! You are beloved.
It is my prayer that the words of this song will wash over your beautiful body.
Belovedness, Song by Sarah Kroger
Resources to continue the journey:
Breaking Free from Body Shame, Jess Connelly
Surrender to Love, David G. Benner
The Cure, John Lynch
The 4:8 Principle, Tommy Newberry
The Dream of You, Jo Saxton
Try Softer, Aundi Kolber
The Truth in the Mirror, Karla Downing
Song: Masterpiece, Sandi Patty
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