by Gerard Terry
Was Paul’s Thorn Porn?
I like to think so. It gives my struggles a biblical proportion. And if Paul struggled with pornography or sexual temptation, I would not feel like such an outcast today. Plus, the church would have to preach on the subject once in a while and, like the adulterous woman, I would be forgiven by all. Who could hold porn use against me if Paul was addicted too? It would be a legitimate, mainstream, sin. Let’s look directly at the verse which mentions Paul’s thorn:
In 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9, Paul said:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
No matter our struggle, each of us wants Paul’s thorn in the flesh to be the same as ours. Maybe that is why scripture does not specify what the thorn was. From overeaters to workaholics, from alcoholics to drug users and porn addicts, we can each identify with Paul’s desire for Jesus to remove our thorns. At times, I helplessly ask myself whether it is possible to beat this thing once and for all.
Origin of the Thorn?
Did Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” come from God? “I was given a thorn in my flesh” seems to imply a giver and a recipient. Maybe it came from Satan, since the verse mentions “a messenger of Satan to torment me.” Regardless, someone gave it to Paul, and it tormented him. I can identify with that. The incessant call and lure of pornography in my life is a constant frustration. At times, I don’t think I can go five minutes without an image on my phone, a billboard or my computer calling my name. I want to break free of this craving. If only God would give me a big, red “easy” button to push to stop the desire – I would push it.
Victory Over Pornography First Involves Surrender
Note how Jesus said strength to handle the thorn will come because His “power is made perfect in weakness.” When I come to the point that my reliance is on God to overcome my thorn, then I will have victory over this sin. Weakness implies a sense of humility. Gone is the pride that I can handle it myself. For victory, I need to welcome the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit to take control of my life. I need to surrender control over myself. Wow! This sounds an awful lot like a Lordship talk.
Paul’s Thorn’s Purpose and Ours
Nowhere in these verses is there a promise of overcoming the thorn, or the sin in our case. That is concerning. Aren’t we assured of victory in Jesus? How we define victory may be related to the purpose of the thorn in our life. Remember this verse from above? “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh.” I excel in a lot of my undertakings, but in one area I struggle to prevail. Pornography brings me to the end of my abilities.
I think God has me right where he wants me: At a point where I know I cannot overcome my sin apart from Him. This keeps me humble. Yet, I am the first to admit that after a prolonged period of success in this sexual battle, I begin to look down on men still struggling – suggesting to myself that they should just get over it. Pride is like toenail fungus – it keeps coming back (Is this too much information?) It waits beneath the surface until we let our guard down or skip a dose of medicine. Ever lurking, pride is a constant threat to my relationship with God and others.
Pride is a constant theme of the Bible. God opposes the proud (James 4:6). Similar to Paul’s situation, porn and pride have an inverse relationship. When pornography is present in my life, I am humbled by my inability to win the battle. During these times, I am quick to give grace to others in their struggles, no matter what they are. When pornography is absent from my life, pride creeps back in. Just like in Paul’s case, the thorn is present to keep us from becoming conceited.
Consider the Good Purpose Which Pornography May Accomplish in You
We all know pornography destroys families and careers. Can there actually be a positive, God-
given purpose for pornography or other bad habits in our lives? I encourage you to consider the idea. Once you identify this purpose, you should meditate on it. Consider whether there might be another way to address the problem area underlying your purpose. Once you find an alternative solution for your sexual sin’s purpose in your life, you may be in a position to receive an answer to the prayer Paul prayed - for the “Lord to take it away.”
by Ken A.
I met you at a young age. As memory serves, I was around the age of 7 the first time I was shown a pornographic magazine. Little did I know that it would be the beginnings of the longest relationship I have ever known, outside of that with my mom and my brother. From the moment I met you, I was hooked. You had me.
In elementary school, I dabbled in you; steeling glances of my step father’s magazine when no one was around. In junior high we began a torrid affair. I began sneaking those magazines back to my bedroom where I got to know you intimately. It was from you I learned what sex was like. Even then, there were consequences that came from my relationship with you like the time my step father found one of his magazines under my mattress, and grounded me from a party, which cost me my girlfriend at the time. I paid dearly, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from coming back to you.
High school, it seems, you left me alone. I had girlfriends that occupied my time, and I was busy devoting myself to school and to church. I am sure we had encounters, but for whatever reason, that time isn’t as prevalent to me as others. But you were still there waiting for me.
College came, and we didn’t spend much time together, probably because there was always a roommate there to dissuade me from doing anything that would put me in a compromising situation. We dabbled a bit, you, me and my fiancé at the time, but I didn’t need you. You were always there, though, waiting for the day I would come back to you.
After college, we renewed our relationship. I discovered the Internet, and countless sources of pornography to entertain me and keep me company. When I met my wife, you were there. I knew she didn’t approve, but I tried to keep our relationship secret.
When we got married, I hoped you would go away, but you didn’t. You were always there. Calling to me, enticing me. I gave in often. I swore it would never happen again. It did. Over and over again.
I caused my wife so much pain. So much heartache. My wife begged me to stop, prayed for me, supported me while I went to counseling, but ultimately it became too much. Knowing what the consequences would be, I chose you. I always chose you.
You promised so much. Excitement, concealment. No guilt. Companionship. Community (after all, there are only two types of guys in the world-those who look at porn and those who say they don’t). You promised to love me unconditionally. You promised to make me feel like a man. You promised to make me feel proud.
What you delivered was just the opposite. Guilt. Isolation. Shame. Regret. Remorse. A life alone. You lied to me.
Because I chose you, my life and the lives of those around me look very different.
Because I chose you, I am now separated from the 4 people I love the most – my wife of 18 years and my 3 children.
Because I chose you, my daughters have come to the realization that I was never there for them, partially because I was always consumed by you; by the guilt that came from you.
Because I chose you, I have missed prom, dance recitals, baseball games, softball games, National Honor Society inductions, campus tours, holidays, family vacations, bonfires and dinners.
Because I chose you, I have spent most of my life feeling incapable and ill equipped to lead my family spiritually as I have been called to do.
Because I chose you, I have lost track of the number of lies I have told to family and friends to hide my guilt.
Because I chose you, my wife spent our 18-year anniversary with our children instead of me.
Because I chose you, my children spent Father’s Day with their mother instead of me.
Because I chose you, my wife begs me to do the right thing and files for a divorce so she can be free, never having to go back into a relationship of lies, deceit and isolation.
Because I chose you, my daughters have asked me to divorce their mother so they can all start over again.
Because I chose you, my friends have deserted me, tired of being deceived yet again when they find out I have run back to you despite telling them I left you for good.
Because I chose you, sleep doesn’t come until very late most nights, as I lay in bed, pondering my actions, and the hurt they have caused those I love most.
Because I chose you, my wife has spent the majority of our 18 years in marriage on her knees before God, asking Him to help her fall in love with me because she couldn’t do it on her own.
Because I chose you, I have spent my adult life mired in guilt and shame, feeling defective and unlovable by God or anyone else. My relationships have been distant and fragmented so no one would have to get to know the real me.
Because I chose you, my beloved wife, who God gave to me to look after and take care of has been cheated out of years of intimate bedtime conversations where we shared our hopes, our dreams, our fears, all out of my selfish cowardice that I would have to open up and share true feelings and struggles.
Because I chose you, I have had to surrender leadership positions in my church, doing what I love to do most, which is singing and leading people in worship.
Because I chose you, I attend church on Sundays alone, trying to ignore the glances from the people that know me, and trying not to wonder what they are thinking about me right now.
Because I chose you, my wife forbids my son to come to the place I am staying right now because she doesn’t trust that I can provide an environment free from pornography for my son.
Because I chose you, my daughters choose not to have a relationship with me, fearing the pain of being betrayed yet again.
Because I chose you, I have spent thousands of dollars of our hard earned money on counseling sessions that never worked.
Because I chose you, I have made poor financial decisions, hoping that I could buy my guilt away.
Because I chose you, I am unwelcome and unwanted in my own house. I have to leave my house every night after spending time with my son; a reminder daily of the consequence of my actions.
Because I chose you, I wear the title or badge of “Hello my name is Sex Addict who destroyed his family, and is reaping what he sowed for 18 years.”
Because I chose you, my family has felt that I never loved them, never wanted to be with them. They didn’t understand, and still don’t that I couldn’t love them when I was incapable of loving the disgusting person I had become.
But because I chose you, I have been forced to ponder my salvation and wonder if I am saved. I have been forced to learn what a person broken and surrendered to God looks like. I have been forced to take a good hard look at my relationships with my children, the friends I have left, and with God. And I have been forced to confront my “dependence” on you.
Because of you, I identify with Matthew, the tax collector and one of Jesus’ chosen 12. Matthew was originally named Levi, so he was quite possibly part of the tribe that was supposed to lead the Jews spiritually. Instead, he became a tax collector, one of the most reviled occupations of the time. No doubt, Matthew disappointed his family greatly, who probably had much higher hopes for him than to be a tax collector.
Like Matthew, I had never stepped into the role God had laid out for me. I was to be a father, a spiritual leader for my wife and my children. Because I didn’t, someone else had to. In addition to being mom and wife, my wife had to become spiritual leader, disciplinarian, and so many other roles she was never called to be. Jesus called Matthew despite his sins. He chose him to make a difference. Like Matthew, he wants to use me to make a difference.
I want to make it clear to you, Porn. I choose you no longer. Like my family refuses to believe my promises, I refuse to believe your promises. Contrary to what you promise, You only offer a life of regret, remorse, emptiness, shame, isolation, hurt, financial ruin, spiritual bankruptcy.
I choose light. I choose life. I choose relationship with God and with my family. I choose to make sure that my family knows every day that they are loved and treasured. I choose every day to choose God and live over pornography and death.
You may think you have won for now, but this battle is not over. I will never come back to you. You have caused too much pain, too much destruction. I will never give up fighting for my family, and I will not stop bringing your lies to Light. There are thousands, probably millions of women and children experiencing what my family has experienced for the last 4+ months because men all over the world are choosing you. I will make sure they know my story. I will make sure they know that you are nothing but a liar who promises so much, and gives so little. I will help them win.
You will not win. As a matter of fact, you have already been defeated. You see, I have a God who loves me, and not only loved me so much to send his Son for me, but he left me something as well. He left me his Holy Spirit that lives in me. If this Holy Spirit had enough power to raise Jesus from the dead, this same Holy Spirit will surely give me the strength to resist you. He gives me a way out every time you try to entice me. I will choose this way out. Even if I never get my wife back, even if my children never choose to have the kind of relationship God intends for us to have, I will not come back to you. We are through.
God wins. Every time, He wins. He is undefeated. Mark my words. You are finished. We are finished. Perfect love wins. There is hope in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus. He wants me more than you do, and I know you want me dearly. It must anger you to know I am leaving you, and I expect you to come at me harder than you have ever come. Bring it on. My family means too much to me. I just wish I had realized it a long time ago...